Athletes with impairments, wanted

Luciano Mazzeo is Dan Taekwondo instructor of Korean Martial Arts, and he is currently developing the Para Taekwondo discipline in Aruba.

He’s been working on the inclusion of Para Taekwondo in the sports community by studying the subject and attending courses.

What does that mean, you ask?!

It means the adaptation of the sport of Taekwondo for athletes with an impairment, yes, you heard me right, those who thought they couldn’t, now can. 

In 2016, Luciano convinced the organizers of the International Tournaments held here to include Para Taekwondo as a demonstration sport, and got a 3x World Champion, a female athlete from Colombia and another impaired athlete from Venezuela to participate.

In the wake of that demo Para Taekwondo entered local tournaments in a competitive form. He also got the Aruba Taekwondo Bond to join the Aruba Paralympic Committee, which made the sport even more inclusive for para athletes.

At the end of last year Luciano identified a talent, and started the first official Aruba Para-Taekwondo team with just one athlete, 28, a man nicknamed “Lefty.”

Lefty trained intensely, finding internal courage and the perseverance, with a goal, the Para Taekwondo competition in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

It came to Lefty as a surprise how well his training went. In fact, it surprised everyone when this summer, at a high level 2018 Pan-American Taekwondo Championship in Spokane, Washington, USA, Lefty from Aruba lost by one point was respectable. And he plans to participate in many more tournaments, because he has become a changed man, 20kg lighter and 40% stronger, a man with lofty goals despite physical challenges.

His coach Luciano Mazzeo explains that the sport is especially beneficial for athletes with impairments and helps them turn their life around, in more than one way.

Luciano is grateful to fitness guru Rene Wild, for the opportunity to train at the gym at La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino, and is indebted to CEMEDAR for Sport Medicine support, Physiotherapy, Massage, Chiropractic care and Psychology.

With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as a goal Luciano is asking our community for help, and every little gesture helps, he says. He is hoping Digicel will chip in with connectivity and that other companies will see the value of restoring self-worth and self confidence in members of our community who suffer setbacks, that may be overcome with hard work and dedication, among other tangible contributions.

Because the Paralympic Taekwondo is not currently as developed as Olympic Taekwondo, and not that many athletes are involved, Aruba would have a greater chance to shine, if it can afford to participate.

Most importantly, Luciano would also like to find some more individuals with impairments who would like to join the gym. A strong will is all that’s required, the rest just happens on its own. It always works if they work it, he says. 

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August 17, 2018
Rona Coster