Hungarian taekwondo star set to make history for his country. GETTY IMAGES

Hungarian Taekwondo star Omar Salim, ranked 5th in the World Taekwondo Olympic ranking list, has already secured his place at the Paris 2024. Only 20 years old, Salim will go to his second Olympic Games and of course he will be one of the main contenders for the gold medal in France. 

2022 was Salim's year, as he became European and World champion at the age of 19. His father, Gergely Salim, won gold when taekwondo was a demonstration sport at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, before coaching his uncle, six-time European medallist Josef Salim. Gergely Salim is coaches his son and the letter loves it. 

"I feel that I have a lot of strengths in the sport of taekwondo. One of them is that I started at such a young age and with a professional like my father as my coach, I feel that I'm very well rounded," Omar told 

"Everything I do is really for my own personal achievements and just to be able to kind of reflect and say, 'well, you just made history for your country,' but it's not something I try to think about."

Staying grounded was one of the biggest lessons he learnt from football great Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with whom he trained at his father's taekwondo club when the Swedish superstar was playing for LA Galaxy.

"When I got to know him as a person, it became really cool. Because how can you be such a big athlete, one of the biggest footballers in the world, and still be such a cool person, to the core... it was kind of an example for me to become a bigger athlete in taekwondo," Omar said of the Swede. 

18-year-old Omar Salim at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES
18-year-old Omar Salim at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES

In 1991, Gergely, a 19-year-old native from Tanzania representing Denmark, won the world lightweight title, a year before competing in the Barcelona Olympics. 

Almost two decades later, Omar made his father proud by winning the European title before securing gold at the 2022 World Championships. "It was a very special moment, and I didn't even know that we were the same age at the time," he commented to 

"I was also 19 when I became world champion. He was 50kg and I was 54, but the weight class was the same. And that was just like the icing on the cake. It just made it so much cooler." 

His mother Sabrina is a taekwondo instructor, older brother Sharif is a 2018 Youth Olympian, while his two younger sisters Kamilah and Nala's are coming up through the junior ranks. "My dad tells me I was maybe three years old when I started, and he created a class for me and my brother because we wanted to do it so badly, and he teaches older kids."

Omar Salim (red) with his father Gergely Salim after winning the 2022 Taekwondo World Championships. WT
Omar Salim (red) with his father Gergely Salim after winning the 2022 Taekwondo World Championships. WT

"It is definitely a unique relationship with my father. He taught me everything I know. I grew up with it, I don't know any other way, and I feel like it works pretty well for me because he understands me so well and he knows without me even me asking me any questions. He can say, 'OK, why are you feeling bad now? I can see that something's wrong.' It's really good to have him because he understands me so well, not just as an athlete but as a person," explained Omar. 

Interestingly, it's through his father that Omar met one of his most prominent fans: Ibrahimovic. The football star, whose martial arts background has been cited as one of the reasons for his exceptional athleticism, trained with Gergely during his two seasons with the LA Galaxy. Sharing the tatami at the Salim Taekwondo Centre with the now-retired Swede, who holds an honorary black belt in taekwondo, has been a valuable influence on his sporting career.

"If I had to take something away from him, it's his work ethic and his confident attitude about the way he carries himself. Some might say he's arrogant, but I think that's something you expect from athletes, especially in a sport like taekwondo. If you're going to fight people, you need to have confidence in yourself and show it on the outside, because if you have self-doubt on the inside, it can really affect your performance," Omar told in an interview. 

His father was 20 at Barcelona 1992, and Omar will be just a year older when he steps into the Grand Palais in the French capital. "Something that I've known all my life growing up, I've always been like 'yeah, my dad is a world champion, an Olympic champion'," he pointed out.

Gergely Salim (right) with the football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. RANGADO.24.HU
Gergely Salim (right) with the football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. RANGADO.24.HU

"It has always been one of my biggest dreams to become an Olympic champion. Because when we train in our taekwondo studio, we have a showcase with all the big medals, and my dad's Olympic medal has always been there. And I look at it all the time," he said.

"I want to go out there and do my best, go for the biggest result, but no pressure on my shoulders, I know what I'm capable of. I have a lot of different techniques that I can use if I need to. I have very good strength and stamina... if I have to go the whole fight, then I'll be able to do it."

"Obviously I want to go out there and do my best and win every match I go into. Hungary has never won an Olympic taekwondo medal and Omar is up for the challenge. I just want to reflect and say, 'well, you just made history for your country too'. That makes it even better," he concluded.