I started out in the Korean style of Tang Soo Do as a kid in Ft. Bragg, NC. When my family moved back to GA I eventually started training Tae Kwon Do. Tang Soo Do ("Chinese Hand") was the Korean version of Shotokan and Tae Kwon Do came about after Korea was liberated from Japanese control. So, over time different schools joined together under Tae Kwon Do. Those who did not stayed Tang Soo Do (Chung Do Kwan, Moo Do Kwan, etc.). Anyway, I like to just use the term Karate (will elaborate on that later).
So, as I starte competing in tournament, WTF (World Tae Kwon Do Federation) became popular and eventfully became an Olympic Sport. It was continuous, allowed contact and emphasized kicking. Since there was nothing more fun than kickboxing somebody in the head, I really enjoyed it. I competed in the sport for a long time. I won Silver in the 1994 US Nationals. Due to an injury I was not able to compete in the US Team trials that year. I also had the opportunity to compete in the 1994 US Olympics Sports Festival (Bronze). In 1988 Tae Kwon Do was included in the Olympics as a spectator sport. In was also in the 1992 Games. With hopes of being able to compete in the Olympics, every Tae Kwon Do player was working hard and the sport was huge. As part of the process to become an official Olympic sport, it didn't come back until 2000. So, the 1996 Games (right in my home city of ATL) did not have have. Since I was Kickboxing during this time, I decided to let the Olympic dream go (also, I tore my first ACL which changed my kicking game).
When looking at the sport of WTF Tae Kwon Do, many martial artists are critical of it and see any value in it. Look at it like boxing with the feet. It is difficult because all the kicks are above the waist and because one has to wear a Hogu (chest protector), punching is hard to be effective with. One must exhibit trembling shock and to kick for 3 rounds for several bouts requires incredible endurance. I will sometimes take fighters from whatever style and have them spar under this style. There are blow away at how difficult it is. The timing, distancing, and reaction are unique to the style. What I've been able to bring away from my experience with Tae Kwon Do, is the ability to control range and set up kicks (jump, spinning, etc.). It is also my secret to reading kicks from other styles (the move slower to me).
So as Tae Kwon Do is shown this week, look at it with an open mind. Imagine what it takes to fight primarily with your kicks. The competitors have crazy cardio, coordination, flexibility and reflexes to kick like they do. It is not easy. If you think it is, try it.