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Australia adds six taekwondo medals to Pacific tally

17 July 2015

PACIFIC GAMES: London 2012 Olympian Safwan Khalil has lead Australia’s male taekwondo Team to six medals on the final day of competition for the Australian Team at the 2015 Pacific Games.

It was almost a clean sweep of the seven divisions Australia competed in, with Safwan Khalil, Tom Auger, Tom Afconczenko, Jack Marton and Hayder Shkara all claiming gold and Daniel Safstrom finishing the Games with silver.

The six medals add to the women’s taekwondo Team’s three gold and four silver from Thursday’s competition.

The tournament is an important step towards Olympic qualification, with each division win worth forty world ranking points.

Matching his wife’s feats on Thursday when dual Olympian Carmen Marton took home gold, Khalil claimed a comprehensive 13-0 win over Tahiti’s Teddy Teng in the gold medal match.

He said the fight had been tough and his game plan had to be to move slow and methodically to score single points.

“The game plan I came up with Ali (Head coach Ali Khalil) was to slow my pace down. Slow footwork with really good kicking technique.”

He said the win was a relief.

“I really needed these 40 points to help me improve my ranking for the Olympic selection.”

Asked about the families success at the Games, he said they support each other.

“When it’s high it’s really high and when it’s low it’s really low. You’re not happy unless everyone is happy.

“We feel for each other and need to be there for each other.”

He said he’d enjoyed the Games atmosphere.

“There’s alway something happening. It’s been very entertaining. All the locals and the Pacific nations they’re loving this and they’re expressing it loud and proud.

“I think the organisation has been great, the buses to and from fantastic and the level of competition has been really high.”

Jack Marton joined sisters Carmen and Caroline on the podium, claiming gold against Tahiti’s Peter Babke in the -74kg division.

He said the win meant a lot.

“It’s puts a lot of pressure when you see everyone else win. You just want to do the same as they do.

“At the beginning of the day I was very a bit heavy but it just kept building and building. I wasn’t even feeling the pressure by the end of the fight.”

He said his sisters gave him plenty of advice.

“They really help me with my mental preparation. Before and after my fights seeing if I need anything, seeing if I’ve forgotten anything.

“They’ve always got a back up for me, like sports gels and power bars. I forgot a few today and they brought them. They take care of me a lot.”

Martin is hopeful of making the Rio Team along with his three family members; Carmen, Caroline and Safwan Khalil, but he knows there will be stiff competition.

“It will be tough. There’s a lot of strong competitors in Australia so it’s just going to depend on the rest of the year how my performance goes compared to others. It will be hard for all four of us to go,” he said.

“It’s a long road ahead, we’re only at the beginning.”

For Australian Hayder Shkara, his Games final was another fight in a fierce rivalry with Vaughn Scott from New Zealand in the -80kg division.

The trans tasman rivals had fought four times before the Games, with Shkara claiming three wins.

But the Kiwi had claimed victory at arguably the most important in Shkara’s career so far, the 2011 Olympic qualifier.

“At the 2011 selections it was between me and him and he beat me one time and he got the spot. I missed out by a whisker. It was one of the worst things to happen to me.”

“And now I’ve beaten him three times in a row so hopefully this puts me in a good position for being selected for Rio.

“He’s definitely my main rival, it’s always very neck and neck, always very tight, as you can see he’s a good competitor.”

Shkara’s teammate Tom Auger claimed a 9-6 win over Rainner Pennie in the -63kg division to keep the wins coming for the Australian Team.

“I’m very happy. I had three tough fights and that final was especially tough so I’m very happy to get over the line to get the gold medal and forty ranking points,” Augur said.

“I’m pretty happy with my performance so it gives me a bit of confidence heading into the next tournament.

““The higher my ranking is the better chance I have of getting a higher seeding at the next tournament, I’m hoping to get back into the Grand Prix series.”

Australia’s Tom Afoczenko also had a great day at the Games, claiming gold for his country.

The 21-year-old capped off a fantastic two weeks at the World University Games and the Pacific Games with a final win over Vanutat’s Bruce Johnathan in -68kg division.

In the final Australian final for the Games, Daniel Safstrom faced tough competition against Tahiti’s Waldeck Defaix. The Australian tied the third round 6-6 but was beaten in overtime by a golden point in the final.

Head Coach Ali Khalil said the medals simply capped off a great day for the Team.

“The day went extremely well. Everything we’ve been working on in training came into play which is very important,” he said.

“Six medals is great. Going into golden point match where we got the silver I thought we were going to get it but unfortunately Tahiti outsmarted us just a little bit, it was great work by him.

“We’ve been keeping a close eye on the Oceania region, it’s always tough competition.”

The 13 taekwondo medals bring Australia’s 2015 Pacific Games tally to 47 medals across four sports; sailing, rugby sevens, weightlifting and taekwondo.

Annie Kearney

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