LONDON, England — Kenneth Edwards will open a new chapter in Jamaica's Olympic participation when he takes on China's Xiao Bo Liu, the 2008 Asian Games gold medallist and silver medallist at the 2012 Asian Championships, starting at 11:45 am UK time (5:45 am Jamaica time) in the sixth match of the over 80-kilo category of taekwondo at the ExCel Centre in London.
The 27-year-old Liu is a first-timer to the Olympics, and like Edwards, was a 'country qualifier', meaning the country had a spot in the Games regardless of who would be fighting.
The 26-year-old Edwards, who started training in martial arts when he was nine years old, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday he was confident he would make a good impression. "Having been training for the past couple of months and really fine-tuning my skill level in the sport, I am very confident going in, and despite the height advantage that my opponents may have, my coach and I are very confident in the strategy we've been working on and we believe we will see ourself progressing."
Edwards, who qualified for the Olympics after placing third in the Pan American qualifying in Mexico in November last year, did not hesitate when asked if he felt any pressure to perform, well given he is the first Jamaican ever to compete at this level in the sport.
"There is a lot of pressure coming from a lot of angles, but I have been training in martial arts for 17 years and competing for the last 15 years, (so) I believe going in there I will know how to channel the atmosphere and do my best."
His journey to London, he said, has been a "bittersweet one", as there was a lot to overcome given his sport was not one of the more highly recognised ones.
In addition to that Edwards told the Jamaica Observer he had to change his original style of Martial Arts. "It has been an uphill task, the training required to get here as my original style was karate and ITF (International Taek won do Federation), but I had to adapt and revamp my whole style of fighting" to the World Taek won do Federation (WTF) style that is practised at the Olympic Games.
"I started competing in WTF taek won do four years now, and on a continuous basis over the last seven months. I've been in New Jersey, USA, with my coach Alvin Bernard to prepare for Olympics."
In the early goings he said the training "was on an on-and-off' basis" where either he would travel to the US or Bernard would come to Jamaica where they would meet up and work out to prepare for the various competitions.
The last few months, however, they have been more consistent and have been working almost non-stop with training sessions here lasting up to two hours a day.
The difference between both forms, he said, was that WTF was electronically scored and required a lot more kicking and the "level of athleticism displayed is of the highest level, like in any Olympic sport".
ITF is also athletic, but "requires a lot of punching; more like a boxing match mixed with a lot of kicking, where here it is almost all kicking and requires that much more agility and speed and timing".