The USA Taekwondo National Team, including one B-team member, participated in the Spanish Open and was successful in garnering four medals- one gold medal (Paige McPherson), one silver medal (Giuliana Gil) and two bronze medals (Logan Gerick and Jason Neville). What is more important is the fact that the group was able to develop team chemistry and a winning attitude that may serve them very well at the upcoming Taekwondo World Championships in Puebla, Mexico. Only 12 of the 16 USA Taekwondo National Team members participated in the Spanish Open due to conflicts in the prearranged training schedule leading up to the World Championships. The other four team members, athletes from the Lopez Camp, had been prepared to compete at the Dutch and German Opens as originally planned. However, major changes in the leadership at USA Taekwondo made it impossible for the National Team to compete at the German and Dutch Opens. With a new Head Coach and a new Interim CEO, the decision was made for the National Team to compete at the Spanish Open and to participate in an International Exchange Camp with Spain following the Spanish Open. All of this is in preparation for our athletes to do well at the Taekwondo World Championships in July.
My firsthand observation of the National Team reassured me that our USA Taekwondo athletes are eager to represent their country well in competition, and they are also eager to develop team chemistry and to help each other to better be able to achieve success on the medal podium. I am very proud of each and every one of our taekwondo athletes who competed at the Spanish Open. I also saw firsthand the interaction of our entire National Team once we all gathered together in Madrid, Spain, for the International Exchange Training Camp. We are fortunate to have great relations with the Spanish National Team. This afforded our athletes the chance to train at a world-class facility with the National Team of Spain. The sessions that I witnessed involved weight training and cardio conditioning in the morning workout session, followed by sparring drills during the late afternoon sessions. Again, I was very pleased with what I observed from all of our athletes and from their group interactions with the Spanish Team. Activities like this should be promoted more often in the future.
Finally, a word about the overall group dynamics: I know that there are those who felt that our athletes would be segmented, might possibly boycott, that our coaches would never be able to work together harmoniously, etc. The naysayers were wrong about this USA Taekwondo National Team. The coaches were very professional and got along extremely well, even beyond my expectations. The athletes were very professional in their demeanor as well. Everyone might have arrived in Spain as athletes from several different groups of different training environments, but it did not take very long for them to all become a team in almost every sense of the word. Again, I cannot overstate how proud of our entire group I am! The coaches were able to rotate and coach athletes other than their own personal athletes and do so to good results. There was no animosity or friction between coaches, just cooperation and each coach trying to do what is best for our USA Taekwondo athletes as they represented something bigger than self— this great country of ours.
Our USA Taekwondo National Team will come together for a camp just prior to going to Mexico for the World Championships. The Spanish Open helped to identify areas that should be a critical focus for our athletes and coaches. We had the benefit of facing many high-caliber athletes at the Spanish Open. I believe in our athletes and our coaches, and I know that they will represent the USA very well in Mexico in July. My gratitude goes to each athlete, coach and staff member who made the Spain Trip a great and a resounding success.