A pair of Rotorua teenagers are preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime after being selected to represent New Zealand at the IFMA Youth World Championships in Turkey.
Jack Young, 13, and Ohomairangi Takeshi-Vercoe, 15, both Rotorua Boys’ High School students, will travel with their Kiwi teammates to compete from September 28 to October 6.
They were selected after impressing at national try-outs in Auckland in June.
Ohomairangi said he was a bit nervous about the world championships but excited at the same time.
“I’m excited about representing the country and going new places, meeting new people.”
He has been doing muaythai for about a year and also got into it through family.
“My dad’s family, they’re big on muaythai because they’re from Laos. My mum got me into it and at first I thought I didn’t want to do it but I started getting into it.
During a fight I try to stay calm and control my anger. You have to be level headed so you don’t lose control.
“I enjoy the training, the fitness and the people in the gym. You have to be real fit, in physical and mental. During a fight I try to stay calm and control my anger. You have to be level headed so you don’t lose control.
“My goal [in Turkey] is to do well and make my country proud. I just need to listen to the coaches and keep working on my fitness.”
Jack said he was excited about the opportunity.
“We had to go to Auckland and have fights to be selected. I had two fights, they look at your skills.”
He said he had been doing muaythai for half a year and was inspired to give it a go by family members.
“My cousins do it and one of them had a New Zealand title, that made me want to start training. I like getting fit and doing a lot of fighting.
“[The focus in the ring is on] protecting yourself and getting the most points. Whoever gets the most points wins.”
Jack’s goal in Turkey is a simple one; become a world champion.
“We’re training, three, four or five days a week to prepare. I want to get a gold medal, that would be great. I’ve never represented my country before.”
The boys are coached by Wayne Wairoa, head coach at Rotorua’s Ngakau nui Muay Thai gym.
Wairoa said they had both worked hard to get to this point.
“They had to go to trials to get picked. We worked hard to get them up there and they showed a big improvement. They’ve done really well, especially after just starting in the gym this year.
“The first couple of months, they didn’t work so hard, until they got a hiding in their first fights in Gisborne. After that they learned from their losses and they’ve made heaps of progress.”
The gym is based at Budokan Rotorua – established two years ago by Paul Kirk as a shared facility for multiple martial arts groups.
“It’s been a big help as well having the gym here, they’re good facilities. I’d like to thank Paul Kirk for setting it up.”
Wairoa was a successful muaythai fighter in his own right and said the boys would benefit from the experience of competing overseas.
“My honest opinion is they are going for an experience and then next year they’ll do better. I don’t expect a gold medal straight away but I expect improvements.”
On Saturday, the gym is holding a Muay Thai Show Novice Fundraiser at Budokan Rotorua to help the boys get to Turkey. Entry is $20 and doors open at 2pm.
New Zealand team to compete at the IFMA Muaythai Youth World Championships:
Ropata Lewis (captain), Remus Henare, Sonny Trego, Ishtar Mackey-Huriwai, Ravyn Simpson, Lfah Trego, Jack Young, Jada Pomana, Hadyn Jones, Ohomairangi Takeshi-Vercoe, Capri Lonie.