"Dreams come true" could be the 2012 motto for the Italian Taekwondo Federation, or FITA. It was a campaign made of gold – like the medal awarded to Carlo Molfetta at the London Olympic Games, and it was a destination reached after a long and difficult journey – like the rocky road Italian taekwondo has travelled.
In the 1960s, taekwondo, a then-unknown martial art, stepped uncertainly onto the global sports field. The odds were stacked against it and for decades, it was considered a "minor" discipline in Italy, where sport is all about football and F1. Nonetheless, it grew, year by year, and now that the public has recognized our London results – well, taekwondo is poised to enter the privileged "inner circle" of Italian sports.
Today, the Italian Taekwondo Federation can look back with a smile, strong and confident after our London success, where two athletes competed and two athletes came home with medals. Mauro Sarmiento, who had won silver in Beijing four years earlier, earned a bronze medal in London, and Molfetta took the gold, indicating that the potential in Italian taekwondo exists, 100 percent. The public now know, and talk about our Olympic champions, Molfetta and Sarmiento.
Based on these wins, our federation President Sun-jae Park and Secretary Angelo Cito, have been encouraged to accelerate their efforts. Associations are in full bloom, very young athletes are getting involved, and popularity is growing.
However, not many people know that behind the Olympic medals lies a great deal of hard work. The hidden work of regional associations, backed up by the national federation, has included a number of campaigns and projects. One of these was dedicated to children, who became taekwondo athletes thanks to inspiration from the popular comic strip characters "Kim & Liu." Following the success of this strip, every year FITA organizes a tournament: About 1,000 kids gather in Rome and wear the clothes of their little heroes.
And that's not all. Administrative staff have expanded. Day after day, our administrators use their experience and professionalism so that FITA can reach the same level as bigger federations, which, due to their number of athletes and their better resources, we used to take as role models. Today, FITA counts 20,000 individuals and 500 associations as full members. Our members, from the youngest to the oldest, are our biggest incentive to go on and reach further, both on the na- tional and international levels.
The WTF has acknowledged our results and honored the federation with the assignment of responsible roles in its institutional structure. Sun-jae Park is a WTF vice-president, while Angelo Cito is a member of the Executive Committee and chairman of the Technical Committee of the European Taekwondo Union (ETU).
Believing our best times are still to come, we have set a new goal and challenge: to break through at the very highest levels. From the Olympic perspective, our work is already focused on the next Summer Games in Rio in 2016, but we can't forget international contests where the Italian team have obtained brilliant results, allowing the federation to become a main actor in the different categories at the global level.
Our secret for success is, above all, a great deal of passion, especially at a time when all Italian sports are being buffeted by the economic crisis. There's a new desire to win, and as Giovanni Malagò (who succeeded Gianni Petrucci as president of the Italian National Olympic Committee, the federation of all federations) put it when elected: "The sport of the future should act as a guide for the whole country."
Taekwondo claims to be that guide.