(Puebla, MX) – The World Championships of Taekwondo 2013 was an experience of a lifetime. Held in the beautiful city of Puebla, Mexico, this championship was very memorable. The city of Puebla did an amazing job of hosting the tournament. Everything was highly organized and well planned out. From the moment teams arrived at the airport, they were immediately taken care of. Three athletes from Colorado attended. They were Ahmed Alsubaihawi (-58 kg Iraq), Khusrav Giyosov (-68 kg Tajikistan) and Alisher Gulov. (+87 kg Tajikistan)
The opening ceremony was incredible. It was evident that many, many months of preparation went into this special evening. For many, it felt like a smaller version of the Olympics that was centered only around taekwondo. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, Cati (the official mascot of the Puebla World Championships) took the stage and showed off her dance moves to get the crowd excited. The ceremony began with a wonderful performance reenacting the ancient Mexican story of Popocatépetl and the princess, complete with a massive volcano and hundreds of skilled dancers. Following this performance, one athlete from each country was given the honor of caring their country’s flag and was accompanied by a woman wearing the traditional Mexican clothing. Two athletes from the Korean Academy of Taekwondo were given this honor. Ahmed Alsubaihawi carried the Iraq flag and Coach Komil Latipov held the Tajikistan flag. With each country announced, the flag bearer’s fellow teammates would scream and do a rehearsed cheer, each one trying to be louder than the team before them. After each of the 150 participating countries was represented, the hundreds of referees carrying the WTF flag entered the arena. The highlight of the evening was the performance by the WTF Demo Team. With amazing choreography and perfectly in-sync, the “Tigers” left the audience in awe after breaking boards held at least 10ft. off the ground followed by a back flip!
Puebla was a truly wonderful host city. Each national team was assigned a guide or attaché to help them throughout the week. The Colorado athletes were Team Iraq and TaeTajikistan, and they got the privilege of having two wonderful volunteers, Karen and Dulce. These girls were incredibly helpful and made sure every need was taken care of – including rescuing a forgotten wallet and passport from the back of a taxi, finding hotels, translating, and leading on a special tour of Puebla. These girls, and all of the tournament staff, were some of the nicest and most helpful people. It was evident that their primary goal was to make sure that the athletes’ and coaches’ only concern was to worry about performing their best. It was clear that this was a very special event for the city of Puebla because they had a large billboard in front of the famous Cathedral in downtown Puebla, displaying a countdown for the number of days until the tournament began. Every day a very long line would form in front of a small trailer set up in the town square that was selling tickets for that night’s semi-final and final matches. People couldn’t wait to watch taekwondo and cheer on their country. Customers could also get a ticket at McDonalds as a treat with their value meals.
The tournament venue was also well set up. The “House of Taekwondo” as they called it had everything needed – a large, matted training area for the athletes (equipped with free Gatorade and water), a healthy buffet just for athletes and coaches, booths for sponsors, and much more! The vendor area was always packed with people buying souvenirs and eating food from the various cuisines available. You were able to get anything from a delicious chai tea latte, a beer from the massive Heineken stand, a McDonald’s Big Mac, or some traditional Mexican mole poblano. They also had different stands where fans could try out their taekwondo skills through interactive video games or BOBs with sensors in them. For athletes and coaches, the vendor area turned into picture and autograph central. While in the area athletes couldn’t go more than a few minutes without numerous fans asking for pictures and autographs. This was a relatively novel experience, and came from the fact that Taekwondo is the 2nd most popular sport in Mexico.
One of the most memorable experiences of the tournament was sitting in the stands amongst thousands of Mexican fans to watch Mexico in some of the semi-final matches. The Mexican fans are some of the most patriotic and supportive fans in the world. Anyone could feel the love they have for their country and for taekwondo. It was an incredible experience to feel the stands shake from the people stomping their feet and cheering as loud as they possibly could. Just a single point and the crowd would go crazy. Many of them had clappers that also aided in the cheering and held up huge Mexican flags.
Going to the World Championships in Puebla will be an experience This reporter will never forget.
To see the full results, visit http://www.puebla2013tkd.com/
You can also see a behind the scenes highlight video.