Jack Woolley is set to make his first competitive outing in several months on December 10 when he takes in the Bosnian Open as his focus realigns to Tokyo 2021.
The Tallaght man is set to become Ireland’s first taekwondo Olympian next summer and had started 2020 in great form, winning gold at the US and Bulgarian Opens.
It followed hot on the heels of his qualification rollercoaster in the lead-up to Christmas last year but the last nine months have been packed with uncertainty.
This European Championship event in Bosnia will not carry with it ranking points but Woolley is delighted to get a chance to test how he is shaping up following an extended period solely focusing on training.
“My training actually improved if anything over lockdown because I’m always traveling,” he said this week from his Team Ireland base.
“I’m [usually] always at competition with small blocks of training in between. I might get like two or three weeks of solid block of training then straight back to a competition. So it was actually a good thing at the start where I was able to set my goals, training wise for once and actually knuckle down and improve myself.”
He describes the Bosnian event as “massive” to give him a personal sense of his current level.
“Stepping into the ring, you never know what it’s gonna be like; am I gonna be nervous again? Is it going to feel like I was when I was a kid? I used to get very nervous in the ring but, after competing so much,I could compete between 15, 20 times a year sometimes I just see how it goes.
“It’s not the end of the world if it goes wrong but I don’t think it will. I feel I am at such a high level and feeling confident, so we’ll go into it and we’re gonna smash it hopefully.”
As for the longer term target in Tokyo, Woolley sees no limits to what he can achieve on the biggest stage and the extra year preparation could see him go higher than previously expected.
“If the Olympics were this year, I maybe would have scraped the bronze, at the most. Now that I look back at it, I feel even better now.
“I have really taken a massive stretch in my training and I don’t see why I can’t actually win next year. Like I can bring home a gold medal. And I know if I keep this mind frame, if I keep my training for competitions the way they were this year, there’s no reason why I can’t be ‘Jack Woolley – the Olympic champion’.”