Taekwondo team out to break Olympic medal drought

Buoyed by their program overhaul and big international results, Australia’s taekwondo team are talking up their Paris Olympic medal chances.

Australia’s two taekwondo medals were at the Sydney 2000 Games, where the sport made its Olympic debut.

Lauren Burns famously won gold and Daniel Trenton secured silver.

There have been no podium finishes since and none of the four team members made it past the first round in Tokyo.

The post-Tokyo review of the national taekwondo program has paid off, with Leon Sejranovic winning bronze in the 80kg class at last year’s world championships.

It was Australia’s first medal at the worlds for a decade, while Bailey Lewis (58kg) has also won two men’s grand prix medals.

Stacey Hymer, who will compete at her second Olympics, said the difference between the Tokyo and Paris preparations had been profound.

“This is the best team that we’re sending to an Olympic Games for quite a long time,” she said.

“We do have a really strong team and anything is possible.

“Our whole environment fully pivoted (after Tokyo) and there was a lot more highlighting the athlete voice… we became more professional, we had a change in coaches.

“Definitely this time around, it’s going to be absolutely phenomenal.”

Australia initially secured a fourth Games berth at the Oceania qualifying tournament last month in the women’s 49kg class, but that was denied and an appeal is being heard.

Sejranovic said winning the world championships medal had opened his eyes to what he can do at the Olympics.

Leon Sejranovic’s confidence is sky-high after he won bronze at last year’s world championships. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

“I always knew that I was capable of doing that, but knowing you’re capable, and actually going out and doing it, are very different things,” he said.

“It took a bit of a weight off my shoulders in terms of Olympic qualification.

“It changed my mindset… I just started to genuinely, truly believe that I can go to Paris and bring home a medal for Australia.

“That’s a really good thing to have.”

The Olympic taekwondo tournament will be held at the Grand Palais in Paris from August 7-10.