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Athletes learn from the best at Taekwondo Nationals

13 October 2017

TAEKWONDO: With Olympians on the sidelines and Ashgabat athletes on the mats the 2017 Australian Taekwondo Championships in Bendigo, Victoria provided the ultimate environment for Australia’s next generation of fighters to flourish. 

Just two weeks after representing Australia at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Will Afonczenko and Adam Meyers were crowned the national champions in their respective weight divisions.

18-year-old Afonczenko (-68kg) has only recently stepped up into the senior ranks and the national title is something he’s wanted for a long time.

“It meant a lot to me being crowned national champ this year as it is my first national title in the senior division,” Afonczenko said.

“Last year I fell short in the dying seconds so it was great to secure the win this time. It was even better performing in front of a home crowd especially in front of my own students.”

After five years of winning silver, Meyers (-87kg) won his first national title in 2015, and was stoked to have the crown returned to him in 2017.

“It means the world to me to become the champ again,” Meyers said.

“I had to miss last year due to concussion so it's a very pleasing moment to reclaim my spot at the top.”

When they’re not training themselves, both Afonczenko and Meyers give back to the sport by coaching the young up and coming fighters.

The Ashgabat duo were seen around the mats in Bendigo coaching other athletes from their home clubs, as were Rio 2016 Olympians Hayder Shkara and Safwan Khali.

Shkara broke his hand at the 2017 Moscow Grand Prix, so although he was not able to fight at this year’s championships, he enjoyed watching his athletes and teammates from Global Martial Arts on the sidelines.

“We couldn’t ask for more from our team,” Shkara said

“They gave it absolutely everything they've got and achieved some amazing results.

“In my weight division, my teammates came away with a gold and silver, so it's nice to know that I have Australia's best constantly pushing me towards Tokyo.”

The 27-year-old who placed 7th at his Olympic debut in Rio said coaching has not only allowed him to give back to the sport, but has assisted him in his own competition.

“Over the years I've accumulated the understanding of how to deal with different personalities when coaching.

“No two people are the same. That means you can't coach two people the same way.

“Coaching also gives me an opportunity to self-reflect and understand my own training and thought processes when I compete.”

While Shkara balances working as a lawyer for Justice Family Lawyers and “getting used to training in my lunch breaks,” Afonczenko and Meyers are gearing up for more international competitions to push them to the next level.

“Next month I am flying solo to Europe to compete in the Croatian, Greece and Israel Opens to gain valuable international experience along with crucial world ranking points,” Afonczenko said.

“This is only the beginning of my career so I have so much to gain. If these next few years go to plan, in 2020 I will be representing Australia at the Olympics to the best of my ability.”

The dream is the same for Meyers.

“My goal is the Olympic Games of course. Short term though I am heading to South Korea at the end of October for another International Open.

“I think my future in the sport is looking brighter and brighter. Two years ago I was unranked and now I'm in the Top 50 in the world.

“I think I have been overlooked for a few years but now my reputation is rising and I'm being considered more heavily.”

Full results from the 2017 Australian Championships are avaiable here.

Georgia Thompson

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