After winning the first three consecutive Asian Games and three world championship gold medals in taekwondo history, “World Star” Lee Dae-hoon, 31, is returning to the sport not as an athlete but as a coach. For the week-long World Taekwondo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, from Nov. 29 to Nov. 4, Lee will coach the Korean national team.
But Lee has other goals. Lee, who has been studying since retiring from active duty with dreams of becoming a sports administrator, is running for election as a WTF Athlete Commissioner, a position that represents active taekwondo athletes at the Games. Each of the 900 athletes competing at the Games will cast two ballots, one for each of the male and female candidates, at the weigh-in one day before competition. A total of nine candidates are running for the Athletes’ Commission, including six men, including Lee Dae-hoon.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and WT President Coleman will announce the four WT Athletes’ Commissioners with the highest number of votes (two men and two women) when they visit here next month.
A total of six athletes will serve as WT Athletes’ Commissioners, including Belgium’s Jaouad ACHAB (Men) and Brazil’s Valeria SANTOS (Women), who were elected at the World Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, last November.
The following is a one-on-one interview with Lee.
Q: You’ve been wearing the flag for 11 years. How does it feel?
A: It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the taekwondo scene since the 2021 Olympics (Tokyo). The coaches and athletes from overseas greeted me and welcomed me back. I’ve been studying hard, but when I see things like this, I realize that I need to be on the field.
Q: You are running for Athletes’ Commissioner. How is the campaign going?
A: When I was an athlete, if someone from another country wanted to take a picture with me, I would just say, “Okay, have a good game,” and that was the end of the conversation. Now I have to get votes, so I’m actively approaching athletes to talk to them more. Even if I don’t speak much English, I approach them first, and they respond. I reach out with a small hand and one, two, three come back. I think about what it would have been like if I had done this when I was an athlete, and I’m trying to get to know them better and reach out to them now.
Q: You also have a goal of becoming an IOC member.
A: That’s right. It’s something that every Olympic athlete has thought about at least once. It’s not a position you can dream about, but the opportunity came at the right time when I retired. I knew I had to give it my best shot. Being a WT Athlete Commissioner is the first step in that challenge. I hope to do well and work my way up to IOC member.
Q: With such a strong field of potential candidates, what are your strengths?
A: The IOC athletes are very popular with athletes and most of them have won gold medals at the Olympics. But more than that, I think the role of an Athlete Commissioner is to be someone who can communicate the power and meaning of sport and represent the goals of athletes. It would be meaningful for someone with sportsmanship to become an Athletes’ Commissioner and represent them. Taekwondo is also powerful. It has the second largest number of members after soccer, and it is a sport that allows countries that are usually marginalized in the Olympics to compete for medals. Considering that one of the sports stars of many countries is a taekwondo athlete, the power of taekwondo is huge. I think the strength of taekwondo will be my strength.
Q: Was there a period of time when you were thinking about your career after retiring from active duty?
A: For two years, my most important goal was to finish my degree (PhD program at Sejong University), and after that, I thought about coaching, but I also wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a sports administrator. I also wanted to become a WT Athlete Commissioner at last year’s World Championships (Guadalajara), but it was postponed.
Q: There’s the championships, the election of the athletes’ commission, and then the thesis defense.
A: The papers will be reviewed (back home) on June 9th. I think this May-June period is the busiest in my life. Four or five things overlapped. I’m filming a broadcast, leading Daejeon City Hall, leading the national team, electing the athletes’ committee… It’s crazy. I’ve never been this busy as an athlete. I was busy training and doing one or two interviews a day. Now I’m overloaded.
Q: You’re confident in your fitness.
A: I’m confident in my stamina. So I don’t mind pulling an all-nighter, but I can’t beat the sleepiness the next day. Because I’m so sleepy, I oversleep and make mistakes that I wouldn’t normally make. Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, “Why are you so stupid? I used to get a lot of comments about my intelligence, haha.
Q: Being an Athletes’ Commissioner is sports diplomacy and politics, but political activities are completely different. How do you prepare for it?
A: In the past, I haven’t really expressed my opinions on diplomacy or politics. I was cautious because it could get me into trouble, but now I realize that I need to have a clear point of view. When I was working out, I didn’t have to break anything or bend over backwards to get in. I never had to ask anyone for help, but now that I’m retired, everything is political. I’m realizing that I need the help of many people for things that I can’t do on my own. I listen to the opinions of those around me to make accurate judgments. I plan to ask for help and learn a lot while studying step by step.
Q: You have always tried to change and challenge yourself. How do the challenges you faced as a player compare to the challenges you face now?
A: It’s harder after retirement. When I was a player, I would change, challenge myself, and work hard, and if I wasn’t good enough, I would work harder and fight with myself. After retirement, I don’t think my hard work necessarily leads to good results. If you look at the WT Athletes’ Commission, it’s not just me working hard. I need help in many different areas. It’s different than when I was a player.메이저놀이터
Q: What are your expectations for the gold medal?
A: I don’t know if I dare to make predictions, but I think if we get two golds in the men’s and two golds in the women’s, we’ve done well enough. It’s important to win gold, but it’s also important to win medals in different weight classes and improve your score. It’s important not to lose the first bout, but to make it to the quarterfinals and semifinals and lose. Depending on the luck of the draw, there will be cases of no medals, but I hope it will be a tournament where we can see the potential of Korean athletes.
Q: You’ll be competing in the 68kg category on the 29th. What are your expectations for Lee Dae-hoon?
A: I’ve only been coaching for two months, so it’s not like I’ve been a full-time member of the national team. In the 63kg, there are two to four main players who are preparing for the Paris Olympics. These guys have come through the competition. This is the biggest competition before the Olympics, and the results here will play a role in the Olympics. I think Kim Tae-yong (63kg) and Jin Ho-joon (68kg) will play an important role. I hope they will do well in the competition so that we can send as many Korean athletes to the Olympics as possible. The first runner, Jin Ho-joon, has been talking a lot about doing well.