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[Interview] Making history in Dominican Republic

On the last day of competition at the World Qualification Tournament in Baku, we had the chance to talk to Yulis Gabriel Mercedes, silver medalist of this event and 2 times bronze medalist at a World Championships.

It is the third time he gets to participate in the Olympic Games: in Athens he was fifth, in Beijing he was second and now he is aiming at the golden medal in London.

?? Yulis Gabriel Mercedes.

How do you feel about your qualification to London?
I feel very happy and satisfied, as I have been training and preparing myself very thoroughly. It is great to have a third chance for the Olympic Games despite I come from such a small country.

Who did you compete against at the finals?
I was going to fight against Thailand but I withdrew because I had an injury on my leg from the World Championships in Korea and did not want to risk it when I was already qualified.

What is the current situation of Taekwondo in the Dominican Republic?
There are many people who practice Taekwondo and even though it was not the case some years ago, now the government is supporting our sport because I was able to obtain an Olympic medal. The Korean Embassy in the Dominican Republic is also very helpful and the WTF invites our national team from time to time for a training stage in Korea: we pay for the plane tickets and the WTF provides accommodation, meals and a place to train.

What is your record of World Championships and Olympic Games?
I achieved a bronze medal at the World Championships in Canada (1999) and in Korea (2011). I was fifth at the Athens Olympic Games (2004) and silver medalist at the Beijing Olympic Games (2008).

How did you feel when you heard that the World Qualification Tournament was going to be with traditional protectors?
At first I was worried, but soon I realized it would not be that bad. Even though the PSS is objective, there are many techniques which cannot be perceived by the system. That is why I actually felt relieved, because then I would be able to use a wider range of techniques. As long as you train yourself to have a solid base, it does not matter if you compete with PSS or with traditional PSS. You may have seen during this tournament that many competitors were using techniques which have been adapted to the PSS and they did not do very well.

Then what do you prefer, traditional protectors or PSS?
I actually prefer the traditional ones, I feel more comfortable with them.

But the London 2012 Olympic Games will be with PSS.
Yes, I know. But if the World Qualification Tournament was with traditional protectors, should not the Olympics be with traditional protectors as well? Well, honestly I do not mind, although it would be a relief for poor countries who cannot afford to buy the PSS for training. However, if traditional protectors are used, referees should not favor stronger countries and ignore smaller ones.

There is only one year left for the Olympic Games. Are there any obstacles on your way?
Our main obstacle is the lack of resources to participate at the maximum number of international events, where we can accumulate experience and ranking points. However, I think that with my pass to London, we will be able to gather more support than before.

Since you were 5th in Athens and 2nd in Beijing, we hope that you will get the gold medal in London.
Well, that would be a dream becoming true. But as I always say, for me it does not matter which medal I get as long as I stand on the podium. Obtaining any Olympic medal will mean a lot to me and to my country.

<World Taekwon Media>

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