Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are set to kick off in less than 2 weeks! Time sure moves quickly. I remember just four years talking about the last Olympics in 2008 in Beijing, China.
As we approach this year's summer Olympics, I thought it might be nice to walk a bit down memory lane. Last time, the opening ceremony had a memorable and beautiful Tai Chi demonstration. The performers repeated a demonstration of Tai Chi at the now famous Bird's Nest arena a year later in a successful attempt to set a new Guinness World record for the most people performing tai chi at once with 33 thousand, 9 hundred, and 96 people.
Being that this year's Olympics, set in London, England, it will not have as much influence from Martial Arts. However, with that being said, there are sure to be a few exciting moments for those that follow Martial Arts in the Olympics.
Judo, as the longest Martial Arts style in the Olympics, has traditionally been dominated by the Japanese. But US competitors have something to be hopeful for this year. Several stars have emerged over the last year, especially among the women. Kayla Harrison comes into the games as ranked #2 in the world and reigning world champion. This year alone she has already won the World Cup in Budapest and Rio Grand Slam. Her fellow teammate, Mari Mallow is another hopefully, winning the 2011 USA Judo World Cup and silver in the 2011 Pan American Judo Championships. Among the men, keep an eye out for Travis Stevens, currently ranked #5 in the world.
Taekwondo will be returning to the games with a whole new set of rules and equipment in an attempt to make the fights better. In the preliminary bouts held earlier in the year, the new system proved to be a challenge for some as they adjusted to the idea of hitting harder. This really is a make-or-break year for the sport as failure to improve may result in the committee voting the sport off the next Olympics. Unlike Judo, the playing field is very open in terms of countries that could walk away with medals this year. The 2000 gold medalist from the US, Steven Lopez, will be returning this year and is expected to win his fourth Olympic medal. And Paige McPherson, a former dancer, is being watched closely as one of the new faces this year on the team. Many, though, are looking forward to seeing the rematch between Wu Jingyi of China and Yang Shu-chun of Taiwan.
Karate, having been one of the two final nominees to replace the now dropped baseball and softball, did not receive enough votes to make it an official sport in this year's Olympics. The new sports that will make their appearance in the next Olympics (2016) in Rio de Janeiro are rugby seven and golf. With that being said, if there is enough interest, we may still see an exhibition game still being held for the recognized Martial Arts styles (Karate and Wu Shu).
So while you're watching Michael Phelps making yet more insane world records this year, take a break from swimming and check out what some of the Martial Arts venues have in store for this year.