"Are We There Yet?!"
It seems like days since I left my house to depart for the 7th WTF World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships... because it was! While the 9-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bogota, Colombia (and subsequent 3-hour bus ride to the mountain city of Tunja where the competition will take place) represents the shortest travel time to the world Taekwondo Poomsae Championships for any U.S. team to date, our trip actually turned out to be the longest thanks to a 17-hour flight delay out of LAX. Fortunately, many of the LA area team members were able to go home or leave the airport to relax while waiting for our flight.
Once we got on the plane to Panama City (first connection), things went pretty smoothly. We caught a glimpse of the Panama Canal from the air and then took a quick flight to Bogota. There, we were greeted by members of the Colombian Taekwondo Federation, who assisted with our entry into Colombia. We then met up with the U.S. team members who had arrived earlier (i.e.those whose flights WEREN'T delayed) and departed by bus for our final destination of Tunja. The bus ride is slow, but the scenery is absolutely beautiful. How many times would we have the opportunity to see the lesser traveled countryside of Colombia? It reminds me of just how truly global the sport of Taekwondo is, and how fortunate those of us representing our country are.
This year, 22 of the 32-member U.S. team (including athletes, coaches, staff, and family) traveled together from Los Angeles. In past years, our team would travel in many smaller groups, sometimes arriving to the competition city on different days. So to have the team together this year is great. Even though most team members already know one another, spending a lot of time traveling together really goes a long way towards building a special team bond. I can already sense a positive vibe on the team this year, which will hopefully translate into the athletes performing at their best come competition time.
Speaking of competition, there are 54 nations represented at this year's World Poomsae Championships. We expect slightly fewer than 400 athletes competing for the 22 gold medals up for grabs. While the United States has yet to win a gold medal at the World Poomsae Championships, we are no stranger to the medal stand, having won numerous silver and bronze medals over the years.
From a coaching perspective, I enter this tournament with confidence that our team will not just reach the podium, but that we will have our best showing yet in terms of final round appearances and overall performance. Last year our team had seven final-round appearances, with four fifth place finishes. This year, I am optimistic that we will improve on those results and continue to advance as a nation.
Well, we're almost in Tunja now, and I can see in front of us that we have a police escort guiding us through the winding, mountainous road.
It's always nice to see the host country of the world championships taking extra precautions to ensure the safe travel and accommodation of the visiting countries.
Time to sign off now as typing on my tablet during this somewhat bumpy bus ride has been interesting to say the least. I'm looking forward to catching up on sleep tonight after that delayed flight, and I'm also looking forward to trying some Colombian food and empanadas (which came highly recommended by my teammate Charlotte Craig). Tomorrow we have our first team training. Competition starts on Thursday. GO USA!
U.S. National Poomsae Team