By Lauren Mattera at Santa Cruz in Aruba

Para taekwondoNovember 21 - Aruba's Minister for Sport and Health, Richard Visser, has today welcomed the third World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Para-Taekwondo Championships to the island, praising the values and ideals behind the sport.

Visser joined WTF President Chung Won Choue, WTF general secretary Jean-Marie Ayer and President of the Aruba Taekwondo Federation Sir José Cornelio in a press conference before 58 athletes, with limb amputations either above or below their elbow, from across 14 countries take to the stage tomorrow.

"We bring a very important message to our island, our region and I think the world – that is a need to move," Visser said.

"I believe that martial arts and especially taekwondo has for centuries built itself on tradition, on cooperation between people, on values for our children, and these values are very important, and are too often being lost.

"It teaches respect for our elders, respect for each other.

"Having such a prestige competition in Aruba, especially bringing in the Para-taekwondo is extremely important to show the added value and real message behind it, these kids and grownups who have limitations show us all that we can go much further than we think."

WTF press conferenceJean-Marie Ayer, Chung Won Choue, Richard Visser and Sir José Cornelio during the press conference

Although the WTF's bid for inclusion in Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was unsuccessful, it is using the momentum created at London 2012 to push for inclusion in the 2020 Paralympics.

"We had in London a very successful Games, and we are very pleased with how they went and now we are defining the steps to Rio," said Ayer.

"We also want to put taekwondo in the Paralympics and so this is a very important milestone for us."

The WTF World Para-Taekwondo Championships is a one day event being held at the Centro Deportivo in Santa Cruz, Aruba.

The event has witnessed a sufficient growth in participants since first launching back in 2009 when 36 athletes competed in Baku, Azerbaijan.

This year 58 athletes - 44 male and nine female - from 14 countries of four continents consisting of Mongolia, Nepal, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Iran, Finland, France, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Guatemala will spar.

The WTF's new Protector Scoring System (PSS), which made its successful debut at London 2012, will be used during the competition along with 17 international referees.

Meanwhile, the three-day 2012 WTF World Cup Taekwondo Team Championships will begin tomorrow and run until Sunday (November 25) at the same venue, with 81 male and 68 female athletes from 14 countries expecting to be drawn.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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