A Trip to Kazan for the European Taekwondo Olympic Qualifications

Posted: January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I just got back from an unexpected trip to the city of Kazan for one of the best experiences of my life, again. My existence in Ulyanovsk consists of random events, which lead to once in a lifetime adventures. This time around, I got to see the European Taekwondo qualification matches for the upcoming London Olympics.

My trainer had sent me a message on the Russian version of facebook to invite me. A few days went by and I didn’t get a response from her. I responded again with my phone number. I guess the largest problem is that we didn’t have each other’s numbers and I don’t know anyone who has her number. I even ventured to where we train the day before they were set to leave, but there was no one at the studio at the usual time. Slightly sad, I went to bed feeling that it just wasn’t meant to happen. This feeling only got worse when I woke up in the morning at 8.15 to see a text message from my coach that said they were leaving from the main gym at 8.00AM. I sent a reply wishing them fun and she called me back. Everyone else had left, but she was going later in her car. Thus, I got to go to Kazan and see the most awesome Taekwondo events.

Representatives from half of the countries competing.

After a little more than three hours, we made it to the gym just in time for the opening ceremonies. There were a bunch of speeches by various members of the World Taekwondo Federation as well as local leaders of Kazan and Tatarstan. There were some performances by local singers, traditional Tatar folk groups, and dance groups. The best part of the opening ceremony was a demonstration by the Korean Tigers, the official South Korean national demonstration team. I’ve watched a lot of their videos on the internet and am a huge fan. Unfortunately, my view of the demonstration was a little obstructed, but it was awesome nonetheless.

So many boards were broken. And candles. And metal. It was awesome.

At this tournament, the winners of the bronze, silver, and gold medals received places in the upcoming Olympics. After the opening ceremony, the medal fights for a few weight divisions of men and women took place. In a few of this fights, Russia was going for medals and places in the Olympics, and so the crowd was going wild. One fight that was especially interesting was the women’s bronze – Russia versus Ukraine fighting for the spot in the Olympics. It was a very intense and close fight. Ultimately, to the joy of the crowd, the Russian fighter won.

I spent the time at the tournament with all of the kids from my Taekwondo club here in Russia. It was nice to actually get to know the people I have seen at practice. While at Taekwondo, we don’t have any time to talk, so it was nice to make some new friends. After the first day’s events were over, we headed off to grab some food (at a McDonald’s much to my dismay) and then to our accommodations. We spent the night at a really awesome cabin that’s meant for hosting parties. It had a number of bedrooms (sadly, not enough), a pool table, a nice entertainment system, a pool, and a banya.

All of the classiest establishments are decorated with a stuffed bird going after a stuffed squirrel.

The second day of the tournament was awesome. I got to see a few fights of the men’s heavy weight, which is usually the most interesting and intense fighting. One of the best fights was Pascal ThiGentil of France versus a man from Turkey. Pascal fought his way back from the Turkish fighter’s four point lead to tie it up at a video-review 6-6. Unfortunately, he lost in the sudden death overtime match.

In addition to watching the fighting on the second day, I made new international friends and acted as a translator. In the stands, there was a coach from Greece sitting next to us. He didn’t speak Russian, but he spoke English. Thus, the kids in my group made me act as a translator for them. They asked him a whole series of questions about his life in Greece and his Taekwondo training. It turns out that one of the girls had already met the man, Andreas, at a tournament in Turkey. She had befriended one of his students.

It was nice that I had befriended Andreas because he introduced me to one of his acquaintances from Greece, the two-time Olympic heavyweight silver medalist Alexandros Nikolaidis. I had been scanning the stands for people wearing Greek apparel hoping that he might be at the tournament. Unfortunately for Alexandros, he is well known in the Taekwondo community for his upsetting loss at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He lost the heavyweight fight in a brutal knockout to South Korea’s Moon Dae-Sung. This knockout is all over youtube in the “best TKD knockout” videos.

At one point, I was talking to Andreas and saw Alexandros at the bottom of the stands. I asked Andreas if it was Alexandros and he replied that it was. I asked if I could get a photo with Alexandros and Andreas took me to meet him. Alexandros was really nice and spoke excellent English. He seemed to be happy that he has an American fan, in Russia of all places.

With Alexandros Nikolaidis!

My other moment of translation happened in the line for food. There was a man trying to speak English with the people who worked there, but they didn’t speak English at all. Thus, I had to translate the Serbian or Slovenian man’s food wishes for the Russian woman. In the end, both parties were very happy that I happened to be there at that point in time. I was also weird and kept creeping on the people from Germany, Austria, and France and trying to listen to what they were saying.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and we had to return to Ulyanovsk. I’m just extremely grateful that I got the opportunity to see this competition and make new friends both from Ulyanovsk and from around the world. I can’t wait to get my teaching schedule so I can figure out my Taekwondo training schedule. I just hope that the girls remain nice and don’t kill me when we fight.

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Comments
  1. Andrey says:

    Thanks for vid. I missed that fight cause waked up late. At 6 pm there was empty at AkBars.

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