• Indian team arrives in Hawke's Bay for special needs taekwon-do world champs after two days of travel

Indian team arrives in Hawke's Bay for special needs taekwon-do world champs after two days of travel

It has taken a full two days for taekwon-do competitors from India to reach Hawke’s Bay, but although tired, they were still smiling when they arrived today.

Competitors from India, Australia and Nepal arrived at Napier Airport today to compete in this week’s international taekwon-do competitions being held in Hawke’s Bay, with Senegal and Nigeria athletes nearly here.

The star event is the Inclusive Taekwon-do Championships 2023 for special needs competitors at the Mitre 10 regional sports park on Friday. On Thursday a complementary mainstream event will be held at the park.

On Friday, special needs competitors from five countries will line up against their peers on the mats. Competing live on the big screen will be special needs competitors from another 13 countries (Canada, USA, Chile, Morocco, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Mozambique, South Africa, Argentina, Wales and England).

“It is very exciting to be able to hold these competitions for our special needs athletes from around the world – they work just as hard on their skills as their mainstream peers and deserve an event that showcases their incredible efforts,” says event organiser and International Inclusive Taekwon-Do Association president Ben Evans.

The judging panel will be made up of umpires from New Zealand, Australia, India, Nepal, Senegal and Nigeria.

“This event, on the mat and online, is about ensuring access for all competitors with intellectual or physical disabilities, regardless of how far away they live from the event or their ability to fund trips. One thing Covid has shown us is that there are so many different ways we can do things. Taekwon-do is the perfect sport for this; you don’t have to be actually standing on the same mat to compete against your peers.”

It is just the second time a special needs world championship has been held. The first, in Hawke’s Bay in 2019, was intended to be followed up by a second competition in the Netherlands. However Covid wrecked those plans so four years on the world championships are again in Hawke’s Bay. Netherlands is pencilled in for the next one.

The Inclusive World Championships will be held in the Pak’n Save Hastings Indoor Sports Centre at the sports park (9am to 3pm), and Mr Evans wants it full of spectators on the day of competition: Friday. Tickets, $10 for adults; five and unders free) are available at the door.