Mr. Sakis Pragalos, has led to Europe to become one of the strongest continental unions through the years, by putting together an excellent group of professionals, that walking in the same way, have made all the projects possible. We had the opportunity to talk in exclusive with him.
MASTKD: Mr. Pragalos, thank you very much for granting this exclusive interview with us!
Mr. Pragalos: My pleasure! For our partner MASTKD, I always will make time!
MASTKD: In this interview, I would like to look back at the years of your presidency in Europe and also discuss the ambitions you have for the future. But first of all, how are you doing and how do you experience the pandemic that is influencing our daily lives?
Mr. Pragalos: Well, I think we are all suffering from this terrible pandemic. In the beginning of 2020, nobody knew a person who had this terrible virus and nowadays, I think every one of us can name a family member or friend who was infected with this virus. Me and my family are staying for the last few months on our maternal island and we are doing reasonably well. We stay at home, we have limited our travelling and it looked like the world stopped turning around. I know that many of your readers and also in my own circle, we have lost family and friends due to this terrible virus. I send out my deepest sympathies to everybody who has lost a loved one in these difficult times. I also, if you allow me, wish to express my deepest condolences once more to the family and loved ones of Gen. Ahmed Fouly and Milan Kwee. The passing of these two dear friends really was devastating and I still have troubles to comprehend that they are no longer with us. They were both true friends.
MASTKD: Yes, we also had difficulties with the passing of these two amazing officials and friends. How did you as president of one of the 5 continental unions of WT deal with the pandemic?
Mr. Pragalos: Honestly, in the beginning it was so unclear for us what to expect and how to correctly respond. The news messages were so different and as an international organization, the responses from each government in Europe were different. We had scheduled so many events but we were forced to adjust our operations and went from one moment with each week an event, either G1 or European Championships, to zero events at all. We then tried to find new ways to service our members because although the pandemic was raging throughout the world, we believed that we had to make sure our athletes were given the opportunity to stay active. We switched to online trainings and poomsae events and that was very successful. Also, together with WT, we organized multiple coach courses and trainings to develop our officials. Later, we hosted a few real-life events based on the national corona legislation of the host countries.
MASTKD: I would like to focus a bit more on the years that you were President of Taekwondo Europe and the European Taekwondo Union. Do you look sometimes back and if yes, how do you see the past?
Mr. Pragalos: Yes, I for sure look back on the past decades. To act today it is important to look at the past in order to learn and improve oneself. When I started as President in 1999 the European Taekwondo Union was an organization that organized only a very limited number of events and activities. We did not have a team of professionals who worked daily in our organization as we have today. We were really pioneering back then. We only focused at senior events and when I started it was my goal to start with junior events as well. Today, we have introduced a great number of European Championships for poomsae, cadets, under 21, clubs, multi games and Olympic weight divisions. Most of these events we started in Europe and have been introduced at the global level later in time. Besides that, we introduced training for coaches and referees, seminars for athletes and so on. I can say that I am truly proud of being innovative as Continental Union and on what we all together have achieved.
MASTKD: The one-million-dollar question is of course, are you running for re-election as President of Taekwondo Europe?
Mr. Pragalos: (smiles) Yes, I am running again for President.
MASTKD: That is great news! Can you please elaborate on the process of decision making for this important decision? It means another 4-year period to your term as President. I can imagine that this also impacts your regular life.
Mr. Pragalos: Well, first of all, Taekwondo is in my heart. I have dedicated my life to the development of Taekwondo and I believe that I am the right person to fulfil the role of President at Taekwondo Europe. I discussed the option of running again with my wife and she fully supported my decision! I still have plenty of ideas and I feel that my work as President in Europe is not finished and I hope the member federations elect me as their President again.
MASTKD: You have been President in Europe for many years now. What are your ambitions for the next years?
Mr. Pragalos: If the member federations elect me for a new term as their President, I would like to focus on a number of subjects. First, I will present my Sport Vision 2025 in which I will lay out the vision I have for our organization for the next few years. In this vision, I will discuss several issues that are key for our organization. One issue will be the event cycle and new ideas I have on this subject. Secondly, I would like to further increase the cooperation between European Taekwondo and World Taekwondo. At the policy making level I see opportunities to further increase cooperation. After all, we are all World Taekwondo and we need each other to develop our beloved sport. Third point of focus will be member federation relations. The pandemic has not only struck us hard but our member federations also suffered tremendous losses. Some federations have lost half their membership base. I would like to continue our dialogue and see where we as Taekwondo Europe can be of help. My team is currently working on a new project in which we want to help the smaller countries in Europe compete against the world level medal winning member federations. This European Taekwondo Performance Center is for now a virtual center that will organize elite and high potential training camps. We aim at member federations who currently do not have the budget to create an expensive program for their national team members in their own country. With this 4-year program, we hope to increase the world ranking position of the athletes and help them qualify for future Olympic Games. With Taekwondo for the first time at the Paralympic Games this year, I think Para Taekwondo will get an enormous boost. We saw that after the Sydney Olympics where Taekwondo made its introduction as an official Olympic sport. Therefore, we will also focus on organizing more Para events throughout the year. Also, European Para Taekwondo Championships will be from 2022 integrated in the G4 European Championships.
MASTKD: I totally understand why you are running again for President! It is great to see that you have so many ideas and new projects in the pipeline. Can you elaborate on how you will realize these ambitions?
Mr. Pragalos: As you know, the team that is working at Taekwondo Europe is very dedicated and committed to the goals I set. Everybody has his or her own role and with their own creativity and enthusiasm, I think we can realize these ambitions. I also strongly encourage my team to come with new ideas and proposals to make our organization stronger.
MAS TKD: Thank you very much for your time!Mr. Pragalos: My pleasure!