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Olympic Taekwondo at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

Here is your guide to taekwondo at Tokyo 2020 in 2021, including top athletes, venue information, Games schedule, and more!
By Evelyn Watta

Taekwondo is one of the relatively new Olympic sports.

It became a full medal sport at Sydney 2000 after years as a demonstration discipline at the Games.

At its debut, the taekwondo Olympic podium was largely dominated by Asian athletes. But over the years the sport has seen a good mix of athletes from Europe, America and Africa making history and challenging for medals.

The competition will take place on 25-28 July, with athletes competing for medals across eight weight classes, four each for men and women, at the Makuhari Messe Hall A, located southeast of central Tokyo.

Tokyo 2020 will also mark the first time that the taekwondo programme has been scheduled at the start of the Games, and not at the end as in the last five editions, to maximise the global viewership.

Below, we take a look at the athletes expected to light up the Tokyo 2020 programme, the competition schedule, and even some Olympic history in our guide to Olympic taekwondo.

Top Taekwondo Olympic athletes at Tokyo 2020

At the Sydney 2000 Games, nearly half of the 24 medals on offer in taekwondo were won by Asian athletes.

The trend shifted at London 2012 and Rio 2016, taekwondo had one of the most diverse listings of medallists.

Two of the gold medallists, Cheick Sallah Cisse and Ahmad Abughaush earned their countries' historic first gold medals.

What’s more, there were so many other firsts including Great Britain's Lutalo Muhammad, Iran’s Kimia Alizadeh, and Abdoulrazak Issoufou of Niger winning memorable Olympic medals.

This trend should carry on in Tokyo with a focus on previous champions and rising stars.

Can some of the Rio 2016 champions from celebrated Ivorian Cisse, Ahmad of Jordan, Radik Isaev of Azerbaijan, China’s Zhao Shuai, as as well as the South Korean pair of Kim So Hui and Oh Hyeri defend their titles and join the exclusive club of two-time taekwondo Olympic gold medallists?

Only six athletes including Great Britain’s Jade Jones the first British athlete to win an Olympic taekwondo gold, have won two titles at the Games.

Jones, who won her first medal at her home Games in 2012 and was the youngest of Team GB's gold medallists, is the favourite to win the women’s featherweight.

If successful, she could become the first athlete in her sport to claim three Olympic titles.

Double world champion Young Sim Jae of South Korea and Cote d'Ivoire's Ruth Gbagbi, the Rio bronze medallist who have both qualified for Tokyo, are highly tipped for podium finishes at Makuhari Messe hall.

Also, watch out for María Espinoza the Mexican who became the second woman ever to win three Olympic taekwondo medals.

Olympic Taekwondo schedule at Tokyo 2020 (Times in Japan Standard Time)

The competition will take place from 24 July – 27 July 2021.

Date and Time: Sat 24 July 10:00 - 17:00

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women -49 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Men -58 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Women -49 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Men -58 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Women -49 kg Semifinals (2 matches)
  • Men -58 kg Semifinals (2 matches)

Date and Time: Sat 24 July 19:00 - 22:40

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women -49 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Men -58 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Women -49 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Men -58 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Women -49 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Men -58 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Women -49 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Men -58 kg Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Sun 25 July 10:00 - 17:00

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women -57 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Men -68 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Women -57 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Men -68 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Women -57 kg Semifinals (2 matches)
  • Men -68 kg Semifinals (2 matches)

Date and Time: Sun 25 July 19:00 - 22:40

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women -57 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Men -68 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Women -57 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Men -68 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Women -57 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Men -68 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Women -57 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Men -68 kg Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Mon 26 July 10:00 - 17:00

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women -67 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Men -80 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Women -67 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Men -80 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Women -67 kg Semifinals (2 matches)
  • Men -80 kg Semifinals (2 matches)

Date and Time: Mon 26 July 19:00 - 22:40

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women -67 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Men -80 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Women -67 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Men -80 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Women -67 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Men -80 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Women -67 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Men -80 kg Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Tue 27 July 10:00 - 17:00

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women +67 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Men +80 kg Round of 16 (8 matches)
  • Women +67 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Men +80 kg Quarterfinals (4 matches)
  • Women +67 kg Semifinals (2 matches)
  • Men +80 kg Semifinals (2 matches)

Date and Time: Tue 27 July 19:00 - 22:40

Venues: Makuhari Messe Hall A

  • Women +67 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Men +80 kg Repechages (2 matches)
  • Women +67 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Men +80 kg Bronze Medal Contests (2 matches)
  • Women +67 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Men +80 kg Gold Medal Contest
  • Women +67 kg Victory Ceremony
  • Men +80 kg Victory Ceremony.

Olympic taekwondo competition format at Tokyo 2020

Up until London 2012, countries could only send two men and two women athletes to the Olympics, but this was changed for Rio 2016. Countries can now qualify an athlete per weight class.

128 athletes will compete in the eight Olympic weight categories in Tokyo. The classes are flyweight 58kg, featherweight 68kg, middleweight 80kg and heavyweight 80kg in the men.

The women compete in the flyweight 47kg, featherweight 57kg, middleweight 67kg and the heavyweight class for those who tip the scales over 67kg.

All athletes who lose to the two finalists in each competition get a second chance to play for one of two bronze medals in the repechage.

Olympic Taekwondo history

Three taekwondokas stand out in the sport’s short Olympic history. South Korea’s Kyung-seon Hwang, American Steven López and Hadi Saei of Iran, each won a medal from three Olympics.

Saei, the most successful Iranian athlete in Olympic history, and Lopez did not only win medals in the sports’ debut Games but went on to win two golds and a bronze medal each.

Zhong Chen, China’s first Olympic taekwondo champion who competed for over 10 years, is another highly rated two-time gold medallist . She won her first title in Sydney, and successfully defended it at Athens 2004.

Her compatriot Jingyu Wu is also a celebrated double Olympic and world champion.

Vietnamese Tran Hieu Ngan, Rohullah Nikpai of Afghanistan and Gabon’s Anthony Obame are highly regarded national heroes for winning their countries' first ever Olympic medals.

Still on another first, 2004 Athens bronze medallist Tamer Bayoumi of Egypt was the first African to win a taekwondo medal.

Olympic Taekwondo venue at Tokyo 2020

Taekwondo will be hosted at the Makuhari Messe Hall A located in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture.

The venue is one of three Halls that lies within one of Japan’s largest convention centre.

Besides Taekwondo, the Makuhari Messe Hall with a capacity of 10,000, will also host Olympic Wrestling.