Speaking to The Phuket News at the 4,000 seater stadium in Saphan Hin, the superstar Korean martial artist said that in order to improve, it was imperative for Thai athletes to get opportunities to compete against international opponents, and that this event – the first of its kind held in Thailand – would pave the way for future Thai champions.
“Initially I just wanted to arrange a domestic competition,” said Mr Seok, who is also the chairman of the organising committee. “But after I announced I was going to have this competition, representatives from Korea contacted me to tell me they were interested in joining, and then Taipei said they wanted to join and it just went from there really.”
Athletes from 18 countries outside Thailand took part, including Kuwait, Australia, Russia, Vietnam and Mynamar. About 1,500 bouts took place over the two-day tournament, with competitors from the age of four and up vying for golds, silver and bronze awards in their weight divisions.
Mr Seok said that he was very happy with the quality of martial arts on display throughout the weekend and said that in general he had high hopes for the future of Thai Taekwondo.
“Now Thailand has a very high ranking in the world of Taekwondo. In the male category we are 6th and female we are 4th. We are very high class,” said Mr Seok
He puts the success of the Thai Taekwondo team down to synergy: “We get a lot of support from the government, we have very good management and very high level of training.”
Many of the athletes will meet again in a few months time at the 9th Chuncheon Open International Taekwondo Championships 2013, in Gangwon-do in South Korea.