• Special needs competitors from across the world bringing their taekwon-do ‘A’ game to Hawke's Bay

Special needs competitors from across the world bringing their taekwon-do ‘A’ game to Hawke's Bay

Hundreds of athletes in 19 countries across the world are training hard and counting down the days to the International Inclusive Taekwon-Do Championships 2023, being held in Hawke’s Bay and live on-line in October.

The first of the international special needs competitors travelling to the games will arrive at Napier Airport tomorrow (Tuesday, October 10), before heading to the Hawke’s Bay’s Mitre 10 Regional Sports Centre where they will stay and compete.

On site will be athletes from Australia, India, Nepal, Senegal, Nigeria and New Zealand. But in a world first, competitors from another 13 countries (Canada, USA, Chile, Morocco, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Mozambique, South Africa, Argentina, Wales and England) will compete live on screen against their counterparts at the sports park.

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

“It is fantastic that we have competitors from five countries heading this way, but there were a lot of countries that just could not make it in person. But we have found a way around that; competing live on a big screen against fellow competitors in front of the judging panel is a world-first and it is really exciting,” says International Inclusive Taekwon-Do Association (registered charity) president Ben Evans.

“This 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 (October 13).

“This is top competition by skilled athletes from across the world, from juniors to black belts, across all ages. We want to show our visitors that we appreciate the training they have put in and the skills they have, by turning out in numbers to see them.”

An opening ceremony and a mainstream competition will be held on Thursday (October 12), followed by the main event: The International Inclusive Taekwon-Do Championships 2023 on Friday October 13, starting at 9am.

An awards ceremony will close out the day (3pm), before competitors and their families attend a dinner and disco on the Friday evening.

Tickets: General admission tickets are $10, with free entry for children five and under. Tickets are available from the IITA office, 115 King St, Hastings (9am to 4pm), or at the door on the day.

An NZITF International Open Championships will be held on October 12.