Taekwondo a family affair

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

When Jae Park headed off to Korea for the world taekwondo festival earlier this month, he was pretty confident about his chances for success.

When you can jump almost 10 feet in the air and break a wooden board with your foot, you have reason to be confident.

But for his students to do as well as they did was an unexpected bonus.

"I was hoping to win and almost expecting to win," said the 37-year-old Tae Ryong Park Academy master instructor who finished first in the master men's high jumping kick breaking division at the 15th World Taekwondo Hanmadang in Muju, Korea, just outside of Seoul. "So in terms of individual competition, there was a lot of expectation for us to do well. But in the team competition, we surpassed what our expectations were."

Sixteen-year-old student Derek Graham finished second in the youth men's (14-18 years old) high jumping kick breaking division while the academy's nine-member team placed eighth overall in the team event. It was the highest result for a non-Korean team, according to Park.

"From an instructor's point of view, I like to do well but at this particular point I want my students to have the experience and do well," said Park. "For them to perform at (this) level with no international experience is just phenomenal."

Held in the birthplace of taekwondo, the world festival attracted 3,400 competitors from over 60 countries including Korean university teams.

"It was a surprise (finishing second)," said Graham, a Grade 11 student at Fort Richmond Collegiate who has been in taekwondo for eight years. "I was just going there to gain experience and I ended up being second."

The team was almost a family affair. Park was joined on the squad by his wife Andrea Zanetel-Park and seven-year-old daughter Skylar, 13-year-old nephew Andrew Leitold and nine-year-old niece Samantha Leitold. Rounding out the team was Graham and fellow students 21-year-old Tyler Rempel, nineteen-year-old Steven Rivest and sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Derraugh.

"They're like my kids," said Park of his students. "They're definitely family."

In high jumping competitions, the board is set at a certain height and the competitors attempt to break it. Those who succeed move on to the next height until there is only one competitor left.

Graham ended up tied with the eventual winner in his division when they both missed their kicks. But instead of the usual tie-breaking formula of giving it to Graham as the shorter competitor, the pair were allowed to continue kicking with the winner breaking the board while Graham did not.

"The other guy did break the height that I didn't," said Graham, whose final attempt was 2.75 metres or just over nine feet. "He ended up being able to jump higher anyway. I'm not as disappointed. It's not like we both missed."

"He takes it all in stride," said Park. "He's a true competitor. His attitude was, 'The rules say one thing but my opponent broke it and I didn't so he won.' That's a great attitude to have."


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