Taekwondo teen off to world champs
Growing up as part of a rolling, tumbling sports-mad family has propelled one teen toward international competition in taekwondo.
Shannon teen Janae Whakarau, 14, is one of 10 sporty siblings, and is part of the New Zealand team to compete at the international taekwondo federation championships in Ireland in October.
She says her love of martial arts stems from seeing her older twin sisters in classes. Her dad was a professional rugby player who played in Spain, and her mum and four other siblings also do taekwondo.
While they sometimes spar together, they don’t get the chance as often as they’d all like, Janae says. She also manages to fit in training and matches for agegroup rep teams in basketball, netball and touch.
‘‘I just love the games. It’s just really fun and keeps me active, and you get to go to competitions.’’
Not shy of full-on commitment, Janae has one of the busiest competition schedules in the Kiwi contingent. As an individual, she will line up in sparring, breaking, special techniques, and all three events again, in a team.
‘‘When I saw how many events I was doing I was crying. I was really stoked.’’
Janae has been both the regional and national age-group champ for three years running, as well as the under-18 champ for the past two years, and Oceania champion for the past two instalments of the biennial competition. She holds a junior black belt, and will sit grading for her full black belt later this year.
‘‘Taekwondo is hard. It sometimes gets boring because you do the same thing over and over, but it’s good practising it. I love breaking boards a lot – that’s fun.
‘‘My instructor, I train with him six days a week, and he pushes me quite hard, and got me to where I am today.’’
Janae’s sister Shanea, 22, will also compete for New Zealand at the world championships in October, and Janae and her family are fundraising to pay for the trip, including running a Contractor’s Ball, on August 19 (tickets from firstname.lastname@example.org).
Janae Whakarau, 14, is training to compete in the taekwondo world championships, in Ireland.