WTF competition rules were formally changed earlier this year to allow the hijab. Mr. Dae Won Moon, Chairman of the WTF Technical Committee, said: “The decision allowing the wearing of hijabs in taekwondo tournaments, including during the Olympic Games, is motivating Muslim women who have strong religious beliefs to take a more active part in the sport and the Olympic movement.
“This measure means that taekwondo is one of the few sports that treats women and men equally in the Muslim world. We believe that our respect for others’ cultures and beliefs will allow taekwondo to enhance its status as an Olympic sport.”
The issue of sportswomen who wish to wear Islamic attire was highlighted by a number of women competing in the Beijing Olympic Games last year. Among them was taekwondo athlete Ms. Sara Khosh Jamal, the first female Olympian in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ms. Jamal reached the quarterfinals of the under 49kg competition.
Ms Jamal said: “When I qualified for the Olympic Games, I was ecstatic. I wanted to show the whole world that Iranian women could do anything. It was a great feeling to know that I was the first woman in my country’s history to actually qualify. I felt so proud to be an Iranian Muslim woman.”
Developing women’s participation is part of a wide-ranging reform program put in place over the past five years, driven by WTF President Chungwon Choue. As a result, the number of female taekwondo participants worldwide – particularly Muslims – is growing rapidly. Today, some 20 million women worldwide practice taekwondo and President Choue expects this to reach 30 million in 4 years.
Ms. Myriam Baverel, of France, a taekwondo silver medalist at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and WTF Council Member, said: “Martial arts and combat sports have historically been the preserve of male athletes, yet taekwondo has become a symbol of equality on the international scene. For example, in France 35% of taekwondo practitioners are women, and taekwondo is in the top five women’s sports.
“It is true that it can seem more difficult for women to take the physical knocks of taekwondo. But what drives these sportswomen is the pursuit of excellence in their sport – and in that we are no different from men.”
The World Taekwondo Championships will take place from 14-18 October in Copenhagen,
Rules change welcomes wearing of hijab
*Taekwondo promotes equality and respect
*Rapid rise in female practitioners
*Commitment to women’s development continues