Woolley gearing up for a massive year ahead
SOUTH Dublin Taekwondo’s Jack Woolley will, this week, ignite a massive year of international competition when he competes in the Turkish Open in Antalya.
The Tallaght Olympian will be hoping to kick-start 2022 with a podium finish, if not gold itself, when he lines out in a highly-competitive -58kg division that includes World and Olympic Number Two Jun Jang from South Korea.
Woolley, himself, is seeded Number Four in the Olympic rankings and will be hoping to pick up where he left off last year.
Indeed, following a terribly difficult summer that saw him pipped in the opening round of the Tokyo Olympic Games and viciously assaulted in a random attack in Dublin City Centre three weeks later, Woolley demonstrated tremendous tenacity to return to international competition and record four major medal wins in less than two months.
“I needed it [that strong finish to the year] especially for the rankings” recalled Woolley.
“Because of Covid, points weren’t kicking in until after the Olympics. 2020 went up until Tokyo so 2020 was effectively 18 months and 2021 was only six.
“But when you actually think about it, August and September had no competitions and December had no competitions, so we really only had two months to get our maximum points when we usually have 12 months.
“Nobody in the world ended up doing it in the end. Nobody got the 40 points.
“I did manage to get 36. If I had got gold in Paris where I got silver, I would have been the only person in the world to have got the 40. I still think I might have been the highest with 36, I’m not sure, but I would have been very close to it.
“I had Albania and Montenegro [Opens] in October and, in November, I had Paris and Bosnia.
“I was a little upset after I won the first one [in Albania]. It wasn’t that I wasn’t expecting it. I knew I could win it.
“But after everything that had happened in Tokyo and then the attack in town when I got home, I was at the stage of ‘ok is anything actually going to go right?’
“In the final [of the Albanian Open] I got the European champion, so it wasn’t an easy draw, so when I won I was taken a bit aback by it.
“It was just nice to know that ‘ok I’m back at it.’ And literally the week after, I went and won another one [in Montenegro].”
Having signed off on 2021 with silver and gold in France and Bosnia respectively, Woolley is hoping to carry that momentum into 2022 when he competes in Turkey where he has previously won gold and silver.
“This year is massive. There’s so much on” he told The Echo.
“Grand Prixes are back this year. We haven’t had a Grand Prix since 2019 and the first one back is in Rome in June. Then we have one in September and one in October with the Grand Prix Final in China in December.
“I’ve split the year up in two, so the Grand Prix [in Rome] will be the last one of this six months. I’ll then have a little break over the summer hopefully and then back into things in September.
“I’m away next weekend in Turkey for the Turkish Open and the week after that we have the President’s Cup in Albania.
“Usually we don’t have a Euros and Worlds in the same year, but because of postponements with Covid, we actually have both this year.
“The Europeans are in Manchester in May and the Worlds are in Mexico in November.
“Then you’ll have the four Grand Prixes, so the end of the year is looking very busy with major events.
“If you have a bad competition, you want to get back in the ring as soon as possible, so I don’t mind having a busy year.
“That way it kind of takes the pressure off in that, if I have a bad day, I can just fix it two weeks later.
“It’s a pretty full year and they’re all important competitions.
“The qualification for Paris doesn’t close until December next year, but I’d say that, by December of this year, we would have a good grasp on whether we could have that [OIympic] place.
“I’m currently Olympic Number Four and you have to be in the top six to qualify.
“And this year we’ve got a Euros, Worlds and Grand Prixes and they all go on top of the 40 points. It’s a busy year and we’ll all be really flat out.”