Woolley clinches 2020 Olympic Games qualification

By Stephen Leonard

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Jack Woolley speaking with The Echo's sports editor Stephen Leonard at last week's Echo Sports Award's where the Tallaght athlete was crowned Sports Star of the Year 2019

SOUTH Dublin Taekwondo star, Jack Woolley, has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The 21-year-old Tallaght man was anxiously awaiting the results from the World Taekwondo Grand Slam in China where his biggest rival for the automatic qualification spot, Yushuai Liang, was in need of at least a silver medal in order to pinch the Olympic berth.

Jack Woolley Echo Sports Star 2019 compressor

Jack Woolley with his proud parents Annette and Harry after scooping The Echo Sports Star of the Year Award 2019

Yet after he was beaten in the semi finals, Woolley and his supporters could finally celebrate.

“I’m just relieved to be honest” Woolley told The Echo. “We got really excited about this two weeks ago, thinking we had done it, and then when we heard it might not happen, it was just the worst feeling in the world.

“But now that I’ve qualified, I’m just so relieved. I’m still waiting for it to sink in.

“I went online to check for myself and was 99 percent sure I had qualified, but I was waiting to hear back from Rob [Jack’s Coach] to be certain.

“Then I heard a knock on my door and it was Rob. He gave me a hug and said ‘we did it!”

“It’s great for all the athletes who are coming up behind me, like Emma [Cahill] in our club. There’s a path there for them to get to where I am now.

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Jack in action

“I didn’t have that. There was no one at the top of the game [in taekwondo] as I was trying to qualify. That’s probably the most emotional part in this. It’s great for everybody who’s helped and supported me along the way.”

Woolley, the recently-crowned Echo 2019 Sports Star of the Year, has enjoyed a phenomenal year in working his way towards Olympic qualification.

Indeed the Tallaght man captured gold in the Turkish and Australian Open as well as the Pan Am Championship while also bagging a superb silver in the European Championships and the US Open.

Delighted at seeing his young protégé fulfil his lifelong goal, South Dublin Taekwondo Head Coach Robert Taaffe said “I’m just ecstatic. A lot of hard work has gone into this, not just by Jack and myself, but other people on the periphery and I’m just delighted for everyone.

“We were coming back from Moscow there a couple of weeks ago thinking we had done it, but then when he we heard it might not happen, it was horrendous.

“Now that we’ve done it, it’s great. Now we can set out a six-to-eight month plan for the Games rather than a four-month plan for the next qualifiers.

“The hard part is getting to the Olympic Games, but now we have to keep working hard because we want to go there as contenders and really push for a medal” he insisted.

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