Taekwondo: Gatterer shines, Germany and France victorious at Jerusalem International Open
27-year-old Israeli competitor rushed to hospital after taking a dangerous kick to the head.
Photo: Tali Minsberg
The French women's team and German men's team kicked away the competition Sunday at the seventh annual 2009 Jerusalem Open Taekwondo Championship.
Despite stellar individual performances by Israeli competitors, the German and French teams had the greatest cumulative total, walking away with the gold trophies at the Goldberg Arena, home to Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team.
The competition brought nine countries together in the final tournament leading up to the World Championships, to be held in Copenhagen October 14-18.
There was drama away from the fighting mat, however, as the event was put on hold early in the afternoon when a 27-year-old male Israeli competitor was seriously injured during a fight in which he was kicked in the head.
Taekwondo athletes score points during matches by kicking each other in the abdomen or head. While athletes are obligated to wear protective padding, injury is always a risk.
The athlete was immediately knocked unconscious and Magen David Adom medics rushed to his aid. He was given respiratory support as medics worked to normalize his heart rate.
Within minutes, he was evacuated to the Hadassah-University Hospital in Ein Kerem. With safety as a priority, the competition did not resume until the medics retuned to the gymnasium.
Due to privacy issues, the athlete's name and condition had not been released by press time.
Within the last six years, the popularity and intensity of taekwondo has grown immensely in Israel, according to Israel Taekwondo founder Michel Madar.
In 2003, the Jerusalem Open attracted six nations with a lower skill level. Sunday, 84 individuals, including 32 foreigners, competed at a high level for the gold.
"I'm very happy to see there's lots of progress in the championship," said Young Sam Ma, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic Korea in Israel.
Sam Ma attends taekwondo events with pride, noting the progression of the sport since it originated in Korea.
"First of all, skill has greatly improved - there are 8,000 taekwondo athletes in Israel and some very talented, world class coaches," he explained.
"Second of all, technology has improved. The championship is being streamed live online and results are to be uploaded to the internet almost immediately," Sam Ma said, pointing to the extensive press table.
One of the most notable athletes at the championship was Israel's own Bat-El Gatterer. In 2008, Gatterer represented Israel in women's taekwondo in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
While she didn't manage to grace the winner's podium in Beijing, many of those involved in the Israeli taekwondo scene believe Gatterer has great potential of bringing home a medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Gatterer seemed to agree. "It is possible for me to win a medal in [the] 2012 London Olympics," she said with a smile. "Everyone out there is good, but I know I can continue to improve."
On Sunday, Gatterer's talent was clear immediately. She remained calm as the athletes around her fidgeted nervously, and stepped on the mat with confidence.
"I've been doing taekwondo for eight or nine years now," she said. "I still love it, I will always love it."
In her first match, Gatterer took the win easily, out-kicking Anastasia Gurskaya of Russia 7-3.
Nevertheless, Gatterer works hard for her wins, explaining, "No match is easy for me. Every fight is hard."