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Family fuels Marton sisters' drive to Rio

26 July 2016

TAEKWONDO: Dual Olympian Carmen Marton and her Olympic debutant sister Caroline embody the five tenets of taekwondo.

Courtesy, integrity and self-control are all intrinsic traits of the tight-knit siblings about to fight the world's best in Rio next month.

But it's the other two principles, perseverance and indomitable spirit, which perhaps best sum up the Martons, whose parents escaped communist Poland three decades ago and, against all odds, will watch their children live out the Olympic dream.

Andrzej and Alicja grew up in Poland during the Cold War, when money was so scarce the few toys Alicja owned were re-wrapped for Christmas.

Both were forced to learn Russian at school and lived on rations, spending hours queuing for staples like eggs, milk and sugar.

But worse than the desperate financial state was the fear.

With martial law came harsh curfews under the constant watch of the military, as news from a rapidly advancing outside became even more strictly controlled.

Some teenage friends were jailed for joining the resistance, but Alicja and Andrzej just wanted to get out. Their ticket came in 1982 when their traditional folk dance group was granted permission to travel to Germany.

Once there, the pair fled and lived as refugees, falling in love as they worked cleaning an abattoir to survive until an Australian visa was granted and a foreign land called Melbourne became home.

Thick-skinned determination was driven into the girls and their younger brother Jack - an Olympic reserve - from the moment they were born.

Andrzej, a taekwondo enthusiast, taught his kids from scratch, holding up a mitt in the hallway for tiny feet to kick.

There hatched a love for the sport that's already taken Carmen to a world title and two Olympics prior to Rio, and will see 32-year-old Caroline make her long-awaited Games debut.

It's the result of hard work that's never faltered through years of injuries, near-misses and myriad other challenges.

Carmen is fuelled by a keen awareness of the sacrifices that have gone into her success.

"It's very important to know where you've come from and understand how hard your parents have worked for you to be able to live your dreams," Carmen, 30, told AAP.

"My father was studying criminal law before he came over to Australia, but then he had to work in a labour job.

"He's been doing physical labour his whole life so he can keep a roof over our heads.

"My mum studied disability support work and had to learn a whole new language properly so she could write assignments."

Carmen, whose partner and fellow London 2012 Olympian Safwan Khalil will also contest the taekwondo in Rio, says her parents love Australia for the opportunities the country provides.

"You just have to be willing to put in the hard work," she said.

"Growing up as a woman of Polish heritage coming from really poor beginnings, it was very clear there's no limitations on what you can and can't do."

AAP

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