Taekwondo Proves Succesful in Suriname
By Dialogo July 23, 2011
Suriname is the least populated country in South America, with 470 000 people. Despite its size, it is well represented at the 5th Military World Games. Taking advantage of its proximity with Brazil, the country’s armed forces brought a delegation of 42 athletes. 20 of which comprises the men’s soccer team, with the rest divided between taekwondo, track and field, and swimming.
Of these sports, taekwondo has given them their best results. Six athletes – five men and one woman – competed in Rio de Janeiro. Corporals Gregory Markiet, Ronnie Jackson and Elly Tjppa advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition. On Saturday (July 23), two other athletes will compete: Kevin Fernald, in the 58kg weight class category, and Jurmen Amiena in the 87kg weight class.
Coach Kenneth Slijngard, 45, likes the sport of the moment in his small country. “We have 2,000 people practicing in Suriname. It is a very popular sport and I’ve always tried to give more competitive edge to our athletes,” said the coach, who is a civilian and has taught the rules of the sport for 12 years.
Aside from the results, Slijngard faces challenges between his military service and the private sector. “In Suriname, no one is dedicated entirely to the sport,” he said. He, for instance, works as a physician and participates in research to find a cure for prostate cancer. The coach has been doing this for ten years.
On top of that, Slijngard also faces the problems of retaining talent. “When they turn 18, they travel abroad to study. And then they stop practicing taekwondo,” he says.
But serving as a reference point, Ronnie Jackson reached the quarterfinals of the taekwondo tournament at the Military World Games. Jackson is well known among the sport in Suriname. “He’s our best athlete. He has quality and experience. He’s a model for everyone who wants to begin,” explains Markiet, who notes that “football is more popular than taekwondo, but we have better results. Everyone respects taekwondo in Suriname,” he added.