World Taekwondo, the sport's international governing body, today opened the door for top athletes from the rival International Taekwondo Federation to compete in its planned new Grand Slam Champions Series comprising lucrative tournaments in various markets.
The Champions Series will consist of eight events throughout 2017-18, beginning in Wuxi, China at the end of this year. Wuxi will host a round annually until 2020.
Chungwon Choue, president of World Taekwondo, said through "more media exposure than ever before," the governing body hopes the Grand Slam will "tell the stories of elite players... and so create stars."
Each tournament will offer total prize money of $800,000 across the eight Olympic weight categories: four female (-49kg, 49-58kg, 58-67kg and +67kg); and four male (-58kg, 58-69kg, 69-80kg and +80kg).
For the 2017-18 Champions Series, the invited athletes in each category will be the gold medallist from the 2016 Olympic Games, two gold medallists from the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships, the champion of the season-long Grand Prix Final in December, the three winners of the Grand Prix Series held this year and the winner of the 2016 Grand Prix Final.
In addition, the host country will receive one wild card entrant
World Taekwondo said the final three athletes in each weight category will be selected in a pre-Grand Slam qualification tournament, and has opened the way for athletes "from other combat sport disciplines such as wushu or International Taekwondo Federation taekwondo, or any other styles" to compete on the proviso they fight under World Taekwondo rules.
World Taekwondo, which is headquartered in South Korea and the ITF, which is based in Austria, but originated in North Korea and is headed up North Korean Ri Yong-son, are looking to build on the ‘protocol of accord’ signed in August 2014 that paved the way for exchange programmes for demonstration teams.
An ITF demonstration team performed at the opening ceremony of the World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, South Korea last month and World Taekwondo is to send its own delegation to the ITF’s world championships in Pyongyang in North Korea in September, but this is the first move towards competitions involving athletes from both organisations.
World Taekwondo launched the season-long Grand Prix in 2013, off the back of the perceived success of the taekwondo competitions at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
This year Grand Prix events will be staged in Moscow, Rabat and London, with the finals slated for Abidjan, Ivory Coast on 2 and 3 December.