Watching Taekwondo at the Olympics can be a bit like taking part in a fight yourself. It’s quick, intense, and people come out of nowhere to win medals.
Having been introduced to the games in 2000, Taekwondo has become a star in the Olympic schedule.
Taekwondo at the Olympics takes place over a handful of days, with preliminary rounds and medal bouts all happening within a few hours.
To find out how to follow the sport, take a look at our complete guide.
Is Taekwondo An Olympic Sport?
Taekwondo was introduced to the Olympics as a full medal sport at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. Prior to this, taekwondo was held as a demonstration sport in both the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Since its full debut in 2000, taekwondo has featured in every Summer Olympic Games.
How Many Taekwondo Events Are Held At The Olympics?
There are four weight classes that compete for medals in taekwondo at the Olympics.
These are Flyweight (-58 kg for men, -49 kg for women), Featherweight (-68 kg for men, -57 kg for women), Middleweight (-80 kg for men, -67 kg for women), and Heavyweight (+80 kg for men, +67 kg for women).
A total of 32 individual medals are awarded in taekwondo at each Olympics: eight gold, eight silver, and sixteen bronze medals. In the Tokyo 2020 games, a team event was held as a demonstration sport, but no medals were awarded.
However, team events, particularly mixed team events, may be introduced for future Olympic Games.
How Is Taekwondo At The Olympics Structured?
Each taekwondo event at the Olympic Games follows the same structure. All qualifiers per weight category are seeded, and compete in a preliminary round.
The winners of these preliminary fights advance to the quarterfinals, and the quarterfinal winners continue to the semifinals. The winners of the semifinals advance to the gold medal match, which is generally the last fight of the day.
The winner of the final takes the gold medal, while the loser has to settle for the silver.
Two bronze medals are awarded in each weight category. The losers of the semifinals automatically advance to a bronze medal match. Their opponent is then determined by repêchage.
The four fighters who lost to the eventual gold and silver medal winners during the preliminary and quarterfinal rounds enter the repêchage.
This is because it’s assumed that anyone who lost to the first- and second-best fighters might themselves be the third best. Each winner of the repêchage advances to the bronze medal match.
Those in the initial repêchage round compete on the same side of the bracket they began in. However, those advancing from the semifinal match to the bronze medal match compete on the opposite side of their initial bracket.
Two bronze medal matches are contested, and the winner of each is awarded the bronze medal.
How To Watch Taekwondo Olympics
The schedule for taekwondo at the Olympics is full on, with a single event typically taking place over the course of a single day. Everything from the preliminary round to the gold medal match is held in less than 24 hours.
It’s a tight schedule for both those competing, and the viewers watching at home.
Depending on where you are in the world, and where the Olympics takes place, you might find that to watch taekwondo you need a very early morning — or a very late night.
Men and women’s events in the same weight class are typically held on the same day, with rounds alternating between the two.
To get a full understanding of the event, it’s worth paying attention to everything, from the preliminary rounds to the final. Even those eliminated in the preliminary round can go on to win a bronze medal, due to the repêchage.
Alternatively, taekwondo is a good sport for catch up services (provided you can avoid the results beforehand). With each fight only lasting a couple of minutes, you can watch them all at the end of the day, and discover how the medals were awarded.
Olympic Taekwondo Qualifications
128 athletes are able to qualify individually to compete in taekwondo at the Summer Olympics: 64 men, and 64 women. 16 athletes are entered into each weight category, to compete in the preliminary rounds.
Each National Olympic Committee is able to qualify one participant for each weight class, for a maximum of eight competitors. This is based on the World Taekwondo Federation Olympic rankings.
Other participants are determined through qualifying competitions, with four spots reserved for athletes from the host nation, and four invited by the Tripartite Commission.
Ranking and continental qualifying spots are awarded to an NOC, rather than an individual.
What Countries To Look Out For
Over 40 nations have won medals in taekwondo, with South Korea dominating the all-time medal table.
As only one athlete from each National Olympic Committee can compete per weight class, taekwondo meals are often rewarded to a significant variety of nations.
Alongside South Korea, China and the United States both have a long tradition of winning taekwondo medals, as has Russia. European nations such as Great Britain, Italy, Serbia, and Spain have also made a significant mark on the standings.
Is Taekwondo Still An Olympic Sport?
Despite only being introduced as a full sport at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, taekwondo has proven consistently popular. The intense format of the competition intrigues viewers, while the diverse medalists attract a worldwide audience.
Taekwondo has been confirmed as a full sport in the forthcoming Summer Olympic Games, and there are even hopes to introduce new medal categories.
Since its introduction in 2000, the number of taekwondo competitors has increased to reflect the growing popularity of the sport.
The intense nature of taekwondo at the Olympics can be tough for casual viewers — but it’s worth it to see the fighters advance through the ranks to win a medal. Taekwondo is a popular Olympic sport, and looks to stick around for the next few Summer Games.