UCL Taekwondo rallies from 3-0 down to win Varsity for UCL
Like the many writers before covering varsity, this was my first experience of the event that I was covering. I was slightly puzzled that the competition began with a ritual of some sort with demonstrations showing basic taekwondo moves and warm-ups resembling Peter Crouch doing the Robocop. Other highlights included a man dripping in sweat breaking a slab of stones and UCL’s ex-coach kicking paddles at nearly twice his height.
I was also told that the UCL taekwondo team is the biggest in the country and they certainly turned up in their droves, populating the majority of the crowd. The partisan crowd unfortunately was unable to sway the referees as the majority of decisions went against us over the course of the evening.
Both teams wasted no time in getting down to business, sending their respective captains into the ring for the first match. The UCL captain Dairui raced into a 5-1 lead but KCL clawed their way back to win 17-11 after some questionable calls from the referees. Next up, UCL’s Theo held a 3-1 lead for most of the match but was undone by a headshot in the dying moments from her opponent to lose 4-3.
Rico was next in what turned out to be the most exciting match of the night. The KCL opponent was a black belt while he was a green belt. But Rico proved to be much more than a plucky underdog, taking an early lead in a high scoring affair. He kicked valiantly throughout the match but the referees remained unmoved by the most deafening of kicks that even Beethoven could hear from his grave. This was allied to points given to the KCL player despite him falling to the floor while executing his headshots. With 10 seconds left, it was a dead heat at 23-23 and the crowd fervently chanted Rico’s name to will him on. However, the KCL player broke our hearts by receiving two points for a non-existent kick. We were 3-0 down and the situation was bleak.
Fortunately, there was some respite for UCL in Eloise’s match as the KCL player sustained an injury after 8 seconds of play and was unable to continue. Serge then claimed an impressive 14-12 win by proving attack is the best form of defence, stunning his opponent with three head shots. Once again, the officials were not on our side as King’s racked up soft points while our player had to play a rock concert in order to score a point.
Sabrina recovered impressively from a shaky start to claim an 8-4 victory to tie the series at 3-3, putting us right back in contention. Another battle of black belts ensued but UCL’s Dmitri was let down by some careless defending, allowing a number of free shots by the KCL player and losing 15-11. Towards the end of the match, Dmitri was visibly frustrated and he looked like he wanted to take the match outside after several dodgy decisions by the officials. Min Wen then gave a tactical masterclass as she easily saw her game out 14-6. She was cool, calm and collected without giving her opponent a sniff.
At 4-4 overall, it was down to the wire and the responsibility of bringing home the title was thrust upon one of our main men: Henry. Before that, there was time for the UCL bench to lighten the mood with Mexican waves that were received enthusiastically by the our supporters. Yet when it reached the King’s area, they were sat unmoved in silence. I am not sure why they weren’t to be moved as they certainly weren’t winning anything tonight.
Henry did not disappoint and started all over his opponent like a rash, scoring within the first three seconds. He proceeded to kick KCL into oblivion, claiming the taekwondo title for UCL. When the buzzer went, the crowd erupted in jubilation as word got around that UCL were the overall champions of varsity by virtue of this victory.
Amidst the celebrations, the UCL coach Amar commented that ‘Varsity is a great way to put taekwondo into the mainstream’. As the team captain requested everyone from UCL to gather for a photo at the end, it certainly felt like that way. Even supporters watching taekwondo for the first time were included in this huge taekwondo family. And from this close-knit family came the heroes who brought Varsity home to UCL.
All image credits: Danté Kim, Pi Photographer