I think I would be correct in saying that Trent Hayden and his family of paparazzi would be the only family of competitors who have attended every Oceania Championships since their inception in 2002. So I am confident to say that the event held in the beautiful Cook Islands recently, was amongst the best yet.
The Cook Islands is a small nation consisting of a number of tiny tropical islands in middle of the South Pacific Ocean. It consists of some of the most picturesque and beautiful coral atolls and volcanic island peaks in the pacific. From a Taekwon-do perspective, it is also a part of the oceania region and this was the first time that the Cook Islands has hosted a major regional Taekwon-do event. Competitor numbers were good and the quality of competition was high. The venue was extremely good and very accessible to local attractions, shopping and accommodation. But it was the hospitality displayed by the members of the host organisation and their supporters that will set this tournament apart from all the previous events.
The weekend of events began on Friday with the official registration, followed by a seminar conducted by our very own Master Daher. There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt, and although the saying does not exactly fit the meaning of what I am trying to say, I think you will appreciate what I am trying to express. We are very fortunate to have regular and easy access to one of the highest ranked and respected Masters in the ITF, and sometimes we forget how fortunate we are. This point was driven home to me whilst watching Master Daher conduct this seminar, with a room full of eager students being held spellbound by Master Daher as he demonstrated various techniques, and obviously in awe of his ability and reputation. I smiled when Trent came off the floor at one stage commenting that one of the girls was asking him lots of questions about Master Daher along with the comment that “he’s scary”. There were lots of Ooooohs and Ahhhhhs and even several occasions when spontaneous applause erupted from the participants as Master Daher went through his session. It was obvious also that Master Daher thrived in this environment and he was enjoying himself. It was a great privilege to witness this seminar.
The day of the tournament began with a formal opening ceremony with guests including the Minister for Sport, Masters and officials. The tournament ran smoothly and “on time” with the only difficulty being the usual lack of officials.
ILSHIM Australia was represented by two competitors, Mr Trent Hayden from the Sunshine Coast and Mrs Oxana Gorskina from Sydney. Australia also had another representative Miss Rachel Markham from Mr Gerard Kelly’s organisation.
ILSHIM members had great results, with Oxana progressing skilfully through a number of sparring rounds and into the final. The final was a very close match with the result being a draw and a third round required to get a result. In the end fatigue proved the difference with the much younger opponent winning in the third round. A Silver medal to Oxana. Trent also had a great tournament winning Gold in Patterns, Silver in Special Techniques and Gold in Sparring.
After the tournament events had concluded, everyone was ushered out of the hall and onto buses for a short tour of the island. Upon arriving back at the hall, we were greeted with a complete transformation of the competition area. A formal dining area had now replaced the competition matts and everyone was treated to an island Umu (ground oven – feast) with a whole pig, chicken, fish etc, plus lots of variety of salads, vegetables, and fruits. This was followed by deserts and cake. There was an insistence that everyone had to attend the food table on multiple occasions and I’m sure that a few weight limits were blown along the way.
However, the festivities were not yet over. After everyone had their belly filled to overflowing, a traditional island dance group put on an entertaining display of island culture. All of this action was interspersed with the presentation of the major awards, closing ceremony formalities, and a surprise birthday celebration for several highly ranked members of the group. In addition to his medal results, Trent received the prestigious Male Black Belt Overall Champion award.
Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable travelling experiences that we have had with our Taekwon-do travels. I would like to personally applaud the Cook Island organisation for a job well done.