Jack Woolley of Ireland with his silver medal after his Taekwando Men's 58kg gold medal final match against Adrian Vicente Yunta of Spain at the Krynica-Zdrój Arena during the European Games 2023 in Poland. | David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Name: Jack Woolley
Country: Ireland
Sport: Taekwondo
Previous Olympic experience: Tokyo 2021
Social Media: Olympics Instagram; Personal Instagram

Who is Jack Woolley?

Jack Woolley, 25, is a taekowndo athlete from Ireland, making his second consecutive Olympics appearance. Three years ago in Tokyo, Woolley suffered a crushing defeat in the round of 16, losing in the final seconds on points. He broke down in tears after and has used the defeat as motivation the past three years to stay at the top of his division. He secured his ticket to Paris with a win at the European Taekwondo Olympic Qualification tournament in Bulgaria in March.

Woolley originally came out as bisexual but now uses #gay, #gayman and #gaycouple as hashtags, and is in a same-sex relationship with Dave, a Dublin personal trainer (“The best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Woolley told an Irish website.) The two met around the time of the 2021 Tokyo Games and it’s made Woolley way more open about his personal life on social media.

“It’s just nice to have,” Woolley said about his relationship with Dave. “I actually met him the week I got home from Tokyo. It was kind of like a big change. I went into Tokyo not really having the support there, maybe it was friends and family, kind of being a little bit lost, but I got back from Tokyo and I had somebody there. It was structure.”

Woolley had the Olympic rings tattooed above his heart, a sign of how much the Games mean to him. With Paris being so close to Ireland, his family, friends and Dave will be in the stands at the Grand Palais on Aug. 7 when Woolley begins his quest for a medal.

Jack Woolley at the Paris Summer Olympics

Woolley has a legit shot at medaling and perhaps winning. He won his last competition, the WT Presidents Cup in Estonia in April. As the Irish Examiner wrote in a profile of Woolley: “He goes to France perfectly happy to say that he can be an Olympic champion but in the knowledge that the 58kg class is wide open. He has beaten the European and Olympic champions, yes, but they have beaten him too. Add in a silver at last summer’s European Games and the confidence is there.”

The biggest enemy facing Woolley might be the scale. His normal weight is 63 kg, about 138 pounds, but he fights at the 58 kg level, about 128 pounds. And by rule he can’t be heavier than 60.9 kg at fight time, about 134 pounds. It’s a struggle to cut weight while at the same time feeling energized.

“It’s the worst part of the sport, easily,” he said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat things. I think it’s something that does need to possibly be addressed within high-level sport. How do you expect athletes to perform when they’re underfueled? Luckily we have a 24-hour window between weigh-in and fights, because all of our fights are on the same day.”

“My relationship with food has been terrible since I was a kid, realistically. Growing up, my mam always had issues with me eating because I was always skinny. But then with the weight in sport, I would say it’s not healthy at all. It’s something that I’m working on. I have a nutritionist and a psychologist, and I deal with weight a lot better now.”

The path for Woolley is simple, and it starts at 9:10 a.m. Paris time on Aug. 7. Win that one, then win three more times that day in the 16-man field and he’s Olympic champion. But win or lose, he knows he will have someone there by his side.