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USA Taekwondo 2009 U.S. Open Returns to Las Vegas

byCynthia Vespia
It's been nearly ten years since the U.S. Open Taekwondo Championships were held in Las Vegas. The competition started early on Thursday, February 12th. Eager young hopefuls and skilled veterans filled the Tropicana Hotel readying themselves for an intensive three days of competition. You can always note the telltale signs of a fighter: backpack full of gear and nutrients; sweats emblazoned with team logos; headphones keeping outside distractions at bay; and a mask of concentration. Once they stepped inside the ring it was all business. Screams of preparation and in acknowledgment of a point scored sounded out from each individual.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Open the fighters wore the LaJust Electronic Body Protectors as a scoring system to more accurately track points with each strike. Hits to the body are one point each, where a legal headshot would be two.

"We are excited and gratified to see unprecedented worldwide support for this important event," said USA Taekwondo CEO David Askinas. "The U.S. Open has long been recognized as one of the premiere world events in the sport of taekwondo and USA Taekwondo is known for running the highest level events in the world. We worked very hard to secure a venue in Las Vegas for this event. We also dedicated ourselves to marketing the event for the last six months domestically and internationally and those efforts have clearly paid off. I also think it is fair to say that there is clearly interest in attending a high level taekwondo competition featuring the LaJust electronic body protector scoring system. There is a very good chance this system will be chosen for the upcoming world championships. If you combine all of those factors with the international lure of a Las Vegas vacation there was definitely a chance to make history this year. We are investigating the possibility of making Las Vegas a semi-permanent home for the event and we will be polling our customer base to gauge their interest in returning to Las Vegas in future years."

About 59 different nations were represented, including 17 national teams and 13 Olympians from the 2008 Beijing Games. The U.S. contingent was represented in 47 states and 2008 Olympian Charlotte Craig headlined the list of U.S. Senior Team members taking part in the international competition. Craig was joined by fellow 2007 Senior National Team members Brian Gallagher, Luis Reyes, Dalia Avivi and Eleni Koutsilianos, as well as 2006 Senior Team member Lauren Cahoon. It was an international competition to test against the best. Matches were set so each competitor was fighting a skill set from a different country, something unique they were not accustomed to fighting.
Skilled fighters from every age and weight class were present.. Each represented different training camps and each brought their enthusiasm and intensity, including Nancy McClane from Team Lee fighting out of Texas in the 41-50 division who, after winning her first round, remarked: "I like meeting other ladies my age who compete. It's fun."

Valentine's Day brought no shortage of fighting. Hearts were pumping and competition remained fierce. Your head was on a swivel trying to keep up with all the action in the various rings. Lots of aerials and attempts at aerials were presented this day. Spin wheel kicks to the head seemed to be the emphasis as China took on Mexico in Ring 1 during the 14 and up division.

The final day of competition brought out the cream of the crop. These fighters knew their skills and knew them well. As Mexico took on the Dominican Republic a well placed side kick to the chest flattened Mexico early on. In the stands friends, fans, and supporters of Team Jalisco from Mexico began a chant to fire up their countryman and keep him in the fight.

One of the major upsets of the championships came when Breanna Bordon took on Danielle Pelham. Bordon, a local Las Vegas fighter without a lot of fight time, went in as the expected underdog against the seasoned Pelham. The fight turned out to be a classic.. At one point Pelham took a toe to the eye but she did not falter. The fight went into sudden death overtime and it was Bordon who scored the upset. 

Ceremonies and awards followed to conclude an amazing weekend of competition.
In addition, the U.S. Olympic Committee will be producing a highlight airing from this year's U.S. Open in Las Vegas. The 40-50 minute webcast will appear soon after the event on the USOC's website, http://www.teamusa.org/.

Kukkiwon Special Testing held in conjunction with the 2009 U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nevada
By Cynthia Vespia

The historic Kukkiwon Special Dan Testing was held February 13-15, 2009 at the Tropicana Hotel during the 2009 US Open TKD Championships. Each applicant was judged by a panel of Kukkiwon and USAT Martial Arts Commission judges on their individual test performance.

TKD Times was privilaged to sit down and speak with Hyun-Sup, Park, the director of general affairs at the Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Headquarters.

Q: Tell us a little bit about The Kukkiwon testing?

A: In the whole world there are 180 countries. Under the TKD umbrella there is The World Taekwondo Federation as well as The Kukkiwon. And under that there are five regional federations. Asian TKD Union; African TKD Union; Pan-American TKD Union; Europe TKD Union; and Oceania TKD Union. These are the five that are under the Umbrella and the TKD Federation.

Q: Why is the Kukkiwon testing in the US?

A: In the world there are alot of Federations giving Black Belt certifications, but in the World Taekwondo Federation, The Kukkiwon is the authority who certifies all the Black belts around the world. So right now the different situations in the US, you have ADU Certification, ITF Certification, because of all of them The Kukkiwon wanted to come over here and conduct the testing so that the people that are qualified would be able to recieve The Kukkiwon Certification. And The Kukkiwon Certification is the basic criteria for any Black Belt athlete in order to compete under the umbrella of The Olympics. So that's the reason why The Kukkiwon is so crucial to the TKD practitioner.

Q: What degree of belt is being tested?

A: The maximum of special testing was up to seventh degree black belt.

Q: What are the pros and cons of this kind of testing?

A: There are no negatives. The very positive things about it, because Kukkiwon is really the most renowned authority for black belt certification, is to be able to give the education for The Dan requirement, the routine - or what they call the Poomsae - so the educated world...you know the people that are holding the certification, and also giving the chance for the people who haven't had the opportunity to find an authority to be tested underneath. So that they can be able to learn what is the criteria for the black belt certification under the umbrella of Kukkiwon which they have learned here.

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