DCU students took a big haul of ITF Taekwondo World Championship medals as Adam Shelley retained his 70kg world champion title.
In total, five gold, one silver and one bronze medal were brought back to DCU by students representing Ireland at the championships on home soil.
“There’s a lot of medals coming back to DCU so it’s definitely the taekwondo college of the country,” Shelley said.
The competition, which was held in Citywest Hotel, saw DCU students Adam and Ryan Shelley along with teammate Colin Carroll win the male team sparring gold.
Maeve Magee and Jenny Lehane emulated this success as two parts of the Irish female sparring team who also reached the top step of the podium.
Magee and Lehane also achieved success in their individual events taking home a silver and bronze respectively, but the biggest triumph for DCU was the retention of the 70kg title for Shelley – a feat that he described as “unbelievable”.
“It really was way beyond my expectations,” he said.
“The whole week, the build-up, the fighting itself, the feeling after, the crowd being there and the emotions that I felt.
“I have to say I’ve never felt before.”
The event in Dublin saw over 1,100 international athletes from 60 countries compete and with 180 officials, 100 umpires and 300 coaches. It was the biggest ITF World Championships ever.
Though Shelley praised the home support he did note that it added to his nerves leading up to the event.
“I really felt the pressure a lot, my phone was just non-stop ringing, texts, everything coming in and I felt a bit of pressure to perform and I think that showed in my performances in one or two of my fights”, he reflected.
The success of the North Star Taekwondo clubman and his DCU counterparts is largely down to the commitment of the individuals and their clubs. The Irish team members met for national squad camps and sessions regularly and trained several times a week.
Shelly attributed the Ireland team’s success to this commitment.
“It’s purely down to everybody’s hard work,” he added.
“All of the clubs around the country have gotten themselves to such a level that there’s such a high standard all across the country and its really showing now.”
Aside from defending his title, Shelley rejoiced in the opportunity to ascend the podium with his younger brother Ryan for the team sparring victory.
The duo had competed in the sparring team together on one other occasion taking the silver medal at the 2017 European championships, but this was the first victory they had to share.
“Myself and my brother have never won a title like that together so to win it with each other was unbelievable,” Adam said of the joint victory.
The victorious sparring team is the third in a row to win the World Championships. Shelley, along with two other teammates, has been part of all of these teams.
The team have trained together for ten years and have set the goal of three in a row for the last four years.
With the addition of the medals from the DCU students, Ireland topped the medal ranks with a total of 25 medals, eight of which being gold. The progress of the sport in Ireland has been huge in the last few years.
Shelley described this victory as “something special,” before reminiscing: “It was amazing.
“It’s so, so big if you were to look back ten years to where taekwondo was in Ireland you just couldn’t consider that this would happen, to take the number one in the overall rankings.”
Shelley won’t have much time to celebrate as he represents Ireland again in three weeks.
This time, however, the multi-talented star will be competing in the WAKO World Kickboxing Championships in Budapest. Though a different sport, the DCU athlete will enter the competition with the same confidence as he did the taekwondo.
“I’m feeling very confident,” he said, “especially coming off the back of that world title that I’ve just won.
“There are some differences between taekwondo and kickboxing but in my opinion fighting is fighting and there’s serious strong fundamentals, so the way I performed there I’m confident that if I maintain my training over the next two weeks there’ll be another world title coming back from Hungary,” he added.
Unfortunately, neither ITF taekwondo nor kickboxing are currently competed in at the Olympics.
Though WTF taekwondo is an Olympic sport it is not Shelley’s chosen discipline and so a future at the summer games rests on an introduction of his sports to the contest.
“Between taekwondo and kickboxing there is talks of Olympics down the line,” according to the Irishman.
“Possibly 2024, and if it did get in I have no doubt in my mind that one of us would be on the podium at the Olympics. No doubt.”
Micheál Ó Scannáil
Image Credit: Legacy Taekwondo Drogheda