Woolley gets OCI Solidarity Scholarship

by Karl Graham

JOBSTOWN’s Jack Woolley’s Olympic hopes received a big boost on Monday as he was named as one of the Irish athletes set to receive an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship to help with his qualification and preparations for Tokyo 2020.
The taekwondo star is one of 12 hopefuls set to receive $625 per month from the Olympic Council for as long as qualification for the Olympic Games is still a possibility. Athletes will also receive up to $5,000 to help with travel expenses for qualification events.
Woolley featured in RTE’s Road to Rio last year where he was seen left in tears after coming agonisingly close to reaching the 2016 Olympic Games at just 17 years of age.
“I came third but I had to come in the top two to qualify,” Woolley explained while speaking at the announcement of the scholarships. “I was pretty heartbroken as everybody could see on television.
“No teenage boy wants to be seen crying on television but it was quite tough. I took two weeks to get myself mentally back on track.”
But he has since bounced back and is looking to push on further in the coming years.
“I had four major events coming up within a month after that so I had to get back on track. In those four events I got to four finals, winning three silver and one gold, and got best fighter of the tournament in Canada so I came back strong.
“This year I was announced as Ireland’s first ever world number one in the sport of Taekwondo. Before we’d never had anyone in the top 80.”
Woolley then became the first from Ireland to participate in a Grand Prix event, which you have to be in the top 32 of the Olympic rankings to qualify for.
The 19-year-old currently sits in 13th. Indeed, Woolley flew to the Ivory Coast on Tuesday after qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.
Woolley sat his Leaving Certificate in June and, with no plans to attend college, at least for the time being, he has been training two or three times a day.
With funding for taekwondo scarce in Ireland, the scholarship will come as a welcome relief after tough times for Woolley and his family.
“Taekwondo is not a talked about sport in Ireland so it was quite difficult with funding at the start. We were doing fundraisers and training sessions teaching kids, just trying to do whatever I could.
“My parents got really bogged down because they were helping out so much and it got to the stage where my car was broken for a long period of time as we couldn’t afford to fix it because I was going to all these competitions.
“My parents were doing a lot and my coaches were doing a lot and it was getting to me. I wasn’t performing because I was worried about funding or I was pushing myself too hard because I felt like I needed to make people realise I do have the talent.”

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