Road to Rio: Walking the Path


For taekwondo’s elite, the year 2015 was a grueling one as they fought to win a berth for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Here is a run-down on taekwondo’s qualification process

The countdown has begun: Across the world, taekwondo’s fighting elite are gearing up for the game of their lives at the world’s greatest sporting event: the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Olympic taekwondo is scheduled for Aug. 17-20, 2016 in Carioca Arena 3, a purpose-built, combat sport-specialized arena in Rio’s Barra Olympic Park. The 8,000-seat venue will also host fencing and paralympic judo.
On the mats, 128 taekwondo fighters, fighting in eight weight categories – four male (-58kg, -68kg, -80kg, +80kg) and four female (-49kg, -57kg, -67kg, +67kg) – will do battle for Olympic medals. So who is going?
The first tranche of 48 elite athletes won Rio quota places for their National Olympic Committees via ranking points accumulated after the 2015 Grand Prix Finals held in Mexico City, in December 2015. Each NOC could qualify a maximum of one athlete per weight category. Although it seems likely that most of the athletes who won their NOCs the berths will appear on the mats in Rio, that is not certain; the final decision on who will actually fill the slots is up to national selectors.
Those NOCs which qualified less than two male and two female athletes via ranking points are eligible for the second tranche of Rio berths, fought for at the Continental Qualification Tournaments.
These five tournaments offer 72 Rio slots. Each NOC is able to qualify a maximum of two male and two female athletes (with a maximum of one fighter per weight category). The continental quotas break down to: 16 athletes each from Africa, Asia, Europe and Pan America; and eight from Oceania.
2016 host nation Brazil benefited from an automatic quota of four host-country places: two male (-58kg and +80kg) and two female (-49kg and -57kg).
Finally Tripartite Commission Invitations – better known as “wild cards” – offer a further four fighters the chance of Olympic glory in those categories not chosen by Brazil (ie male -68kg and -80kg, and female -67kg and +67kg).
The seeded athletes in each taekwondo weight division will be announced on or after July 18, 2016, on the WTF website.
In the pages to come, we talk to the game’s top figures to ask who they will be watching most closely. We then introduce profiles, written over the course of the 2015 fighting season, of some of the athletes who have won quota places for Rio. So: Turn the page and meet the elite …