The World Taekwondo Europe is launching in September a program aimed at elite athletes from European federations and offers them an elite performance environment in which they are being trained at the highest level, looking as a biggest goal the improvement of the participation in the Olympic Games. That is why we talked in exclusive with the General Director of WTE, Mr. Kenneth Schunken.
Thank you for your time dear Kenneth, how started the idea of the ETPC?
First of all, thank you so much for the opportunity to elaborate on the new project of Taekwondo Europe! Actually, when I just passed my exam for black belt, I saw the Taekwondo movie The Best of the Best. In this movie, the main character was selected for the US national team to fight against Korea, and he had to follow a fulltime program to be part of the team. They had the best trainers and supporting staff, were analyzed and eventually well prepared to face the Korean team. A few months ago, I thought about how to provide the best training conditions to athletes because not all athletes have the same opportunities in their home countries. I thought back of the movie I saw and translated that idea into the European Taekwondo Performance Center. The idea of a European approach on this is of course not new and we have in Europe some excellent centers led by the best coaches already. Of course, also in Germany there are professional teams working with their students and the results they achieve are astonishing! All these things together inspired me to present the idea of a European Performance Center to President Pragalos. He got excited instantly and gave me permission to work out the details of the project. I very much appreciate your enthusiasm, but we are currently at the very beginning of the project. The plan is ready, and we hope to organize an information meeting for interested member federations. From there we have to start and to see how things develop!
Can you tell us how will it work? Will this consist in training camps only? Can the athletes sign in by themselves or should they have MNA recommendation?
We want to offer those member federations and their national team athletes the possibility to train within an environment that the athlete normally cannot experience because the member federation does not have the ability to offer a pool of high-quality elite athletes and consequently cannot offer full time training programs. We aim at those member federations and elite athletes that have Olympic ambitions, who want to commit themselves to our program and who – together with their member federation’s coach – are willing to take part in our program. Our performance director has made a program which entails a number of training camps. During these camps, the athletes will be analyzed and profiled. With that information, our performance director will make a personalized training program and with that the athlete has to work. During the training camps that we organize we give the athlete and coach feedback, and we support them as much we can in order for them to grow as an athlete.
What would be the requirements for athletes to be part of the program?
In the beginning we will focus on member federations. That means our athletes should come from the member federations and are either national team members or indicated by the federation as high potential athletes. We expect athletes to be committed to our program, but we do not expect Olympic medalists to come to us. We aim at the athletes that do not have the right training environment, the athlete that is every time the number 2 in their home country and who wants to beat the member federations number 1. We are searching for athletes who have a dream, are willing to work hard and who have the support of their federation to be included in our program.
Can they sign in for less than a year?
No. Our programs are aimed at results in the long run. We want to work with athletes and their coaches from beginning till end. Member federations can sign up for a year, but our ambitions and plans are based on a 4-year cycle.
Athletes also dream to have training with Olympians and big Taekwondo stars, will they have this chance through the program?
If you ask me if any athlete who has the dream to train with Olympians and big Taekwondo stars can come to us, the answer is certainly no! We are not aiming at those athletes. We want to work with athletes and member federations that have their own Olympic ambitions. Our center will focus on creating opportunities for athletes to grow and become Olympians and Taekwondo stars themselves!
The brief says that you will work together with other countries like Cuba, Brazil and Mexico out of Europe, this means that camps can be out of the continent?
With the contacts we have, we can basically have our camps anywhere around the globe. We are however working on a balanced program which is interesting for the target group we aim at.
You will have interviews with the athletes that wants to join the program, what profile of athletes are you looking for, and can athletes from other continents join it?
In the beginning we will focus on European member federations. That means our athletes should come from the member federations and are either national team members or indicated by the federation as high potential athletes. We expect athletes to be committed to our program, but we do not expect Olympic medalists to come to us. We aim at the athletes that do not have the right training environment, the athlete that is every time the number 2 in their home country and who wants to beat the number 1! We are searching for athletes who have a dream, are willing to work hard and who have the support of their federation to be included in our program. Honestly, I have not thought about the idea of athletes from other continents willing to join our program. I think we would not immediately say no to that, but of course it also depends on how many places we have open in our program.
When will the program begin, and how do you plan to schedule it?
We are currently at the very beginning of this new exciting project and with the Olympics taking place this year, we are at the perfect moment to start. We hope to have our information meeting with interested federations beginning of June and after that we hope to close partnerships with member federations during the summer. We aim to start right after the summer break! We are working on our schedule as we speak and searching for a right balance between the many events that we normally have.
How was the reaction – do you already have nations who are interested in sending athletes to the Performance Center?
We always check if there is a demand for what we have in our minds before we start working on new projects. Also, for this project, I got feedback from member federations which is included in the project plan we have. Yes, we have already go interested member federations, but I sense that also some of them are kind of waiting and see who and how many others are going to participate in this project. I hope that after the first online meeting with interested member federations we can present you may in the next magazine more info on who is joining us!
Is the Center based at one location or will there be rotating camps at different locations?
At the moment, we will do our programs in a training camp mode in addition with virtual and online support in between camps. We have the ambition to grow into a physical training center, but we also believe that we can service our member federations by offering them a number of high value training camps throughout the year at different locations. For now, we do not believe that in the short run athletes are willing or committed to be located at one particular place. However, in the future, depending on our growth and development, we keep the option open for having our center at one location.
What would be your message to all those who are following the dream to be part of the Olympic Games?
Never give up your dreams would be my most important message! I truly believe that someone who really wants and who is committed can almost achieve anything! In respect to our project, I would urge the athletes with Olympic ambitions to contact their federation and discuss with them the options to be part of our program. Federations can contact us at all times for more information and for a customized financial proposal for joining our center!