Sythong takes first step to Olympics
‘‘I'm a little bit nervous, but also very excited - there are a lot of mixed emotions.’’
Over the coming days, 17-year-old Newton Sythong will be acclimatising himself to the higher altitude and temperatures of South Korea as his bid at the World Taekwondo Championship starts.
The young athlete has set himself a goal of one day competing at the Olympics, and said his first time representing New Zealand in the Senior 68kg division in the coming weeks is a stepping stone.
Before leaving for Muju, South Korea, last Sunday, Sythong was up in the early hours every morning with Titahi Bay Taekwondo Club instructor Paleti Murphy to run laps around the Aotea Lagoon at Porirua.
Due to the milder temperatures, the duo took their preparation to the nearby Te Rauparaha Arena and Aquatic Centre for resistance training followed by more practice in the evening.
For someone like Sythong, who set himself a goal of reaching the pinnacle of the sport, they had to find the time to train, Murphy said.
They scaled back the physical training over the past two weeks to allow Sythong to focus more on the mental preparation.
Arena staff lent them space to fine-tune Sythong’s movements, combinations and tweak his strategy and technique.
‘‘When I enter the ring I must ensure I’m thinking about my transition, defence and timing, then the technique and execution of the attack - if one of those aren’t executed efficiently then the rest won’t,’’ Sythong said.
Sythong will be among more than 970 athletes from 183 to compete from Saturday, and has his sights on winning as many matches as possible.
Last week he said the opportunity didn’t yet feel real but hoped it will put the Titahi Bay Taekwondo club on the map.
‘‘I’m a little bit nervous, but also very excited - there are a lot of mixed emotions,’’ he said. ‘‘This will be the stepping stone towards getting to the Olympics, I’ll take all the experience from the championships and continue with more hard work.’’
For months Newton Sythong has been preparing for his first World Taekwondo Championships