The world’s best young taekwondo athletes are in Sofia right now for the 2022 World Taekwondo Junior Championships and among them is UAE based Pakistani teenager Sinan Ahmed.
He is in the midst of over 800 players aged between 14 and 17 from 90 countries at the 13th edition hoping to win top honours this week.
The tournament is taking place at the Bulgarian capital’s Arena Armeec for the first time since 2018 after it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be a newly introduced best-of-three system with three two minute rounds and the Ajman born Ahmed is raring to go. “I am really excited for this tournament as it is a huge one and all my training has led up to this point,” says the 16-year-old. “I had my eyes on this biggest tournament for the last two years and I have been training hard.”
Ahmed feels in good shape and believes he can achieve great results in Sofia. “I am confident that I will do really well and try my very best to get the gold medal which is my aim. This is the ultimate target for me.”
Confidence will indeed play a key role in how he gets on as he will be competing against junior athletes that have the potential to be nurtured into future Olympic champions. But Ahmed - a 2nd Dan Black Belt - has already left a huge mark in the sport. He has entered a total of 13 competitions including 7 international tournaments. “The international events were tough due to the higher quality of athletes competing in them.” That has not stopped him from winning a total of 6 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals.
A member of the Pakistan National Taekwondo Team, Ahmed says he is very proud to represent his country. “It’s amazing really. I hope I will make my country and people proud. I am also grateful to Colonel (retired) Waseem Ahmed Janjua, president of the Pakistan Taekwondo Federation, for giving me chance to be part of the Pakistan National Team. Col Waeem has always been forthcoming in helping athletes.”
He has won 7 international medals for Pakistan including gold at the 2021 Paris Open Championship. He also won gold at the Fujairah Open International Tournament and silver medals at the championship in Belgium and Bulgaria.
"Kwon" means fist, or fight.
"Do" means the way or discipline.
For the current Bulgaria championships he has been training twice a day six times a week to ensure he is ready. He has been doing a mixture of endurance work, stamina and technical training. “Most of the time, I trained at Sharjah Sports Club but I also train with my Pakistani Coach Nadir Khan for endurance and strength,” he says. “He helped me a lot to improve my strength, speed, stamina and power.”
A healthy and balanced diet is vital too and unlike most teens Ahmed avoids junk food and sugary drinks. “I have a protein rich diet - milk, yogurts, eggs and fruit are integral part of my daily food plan.” And it shows. Weighing in at 78kg, the muscle-bound Ahmed looks capable of fighting against martial artists twice his age.
Way of life
But taekwondo - one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts - hasn’t just done wonders for his body, it has improved his confidence and self-esteem too. “It makes me happy that I am improving myself, enhancing my social skills, my willpower and it made me believe that I can do anything if I have focus and determination,” he beams. It has also improved his concentration and focus in his studies. “I was once studying for a tough physics exam and having a hard time, so I went out for a 30-minute run, came back home and trained for another 30 minutes, took a shower and resumed my studies which suddenly seemed a lot easier. The next day I got an A on the test.”
He also came top in his my class with a 95 per cent score in a grade 11 exam. He says the sport has also improved his self-discipline. “It has made me more diligent and a stern follower of rules. I have learned to not engage in unnecessary arguments and take it easy. I stay focused on my targets whether it study or the next fight.”
He first become interested in taekwondo at the age of 6 thanks to his brother who he would watch train after school. “I’d always be amazed with how cool the kicks and spins looked. The techniques are stunning compared to other martial arts,” he says.
He will be hoping to use these techniques to his benefit during the competition in Sofia where the World Taekwondo Hall of Fame award ceremony will be held and the first inductees will be revealed. Does he think he can make the list? “Yes I do. But to make the step up to the next level I feel I need to improve my game plan so I can assess certain types of situations and overcome them.”