After a topsy-turvy 2020 that could’ve included an Olympic debut - but instead was spent in COVID-19 lockdown - Reba Stewart says she is fit and focused thanks to the inspiration of the Australian Taekwondo community.
The 19-year-old has suffered through Australia’s longest lockdown but says she has stayed connected via online training sessions and been buoyed and driven by the spirit of her fellow Victorians and the broader Taekwondo community.
“They kept going and they are still trying their hardest, even in the circumstances we have,” she says.
“You are doing so, so well.
“Just think of what your first training session is going to be like.
“It is going to be so good, so different.
“Think of the fun we are going to have.
“Just keep going.”
After a win at the Oceania titles and finishing top 16 at the World Championships in Manchester, 2020 was supposed to be the year Reba became an Olympian.
Instead, she spent much of the year training in her living room.
Fortunately, she has now secured permission to “COVID-safe train” with coaches Karim Dighou and Jerry Moraitis at Halls Taekwondo to ensure Olympic representation remains viable.
In fact, the Tokyo Games could be her next major competition.
“Because we don’t have competitions, we are really focusing on our technique and fitness,” Reba says.
“I’m in good shape.”
In a coup, both for Reba and Taekwondo, she has been named as one of ten young athletes, all from different sports, who will each receive a $5,000 Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship and Mentoring Program Chair Sue Stanley has recognised how tough it is for Reba and other young athletes right now.
“We couldn’t be happier to be able to provide this additional support especially during this time of uncertainty.” she says.
“To provide hope and encouragement to such a large group of athletes is a gift that we are exceptionally proud to give.”
Likewise, Sport Australia Chair John Wylie.
“This program provides financial support and acknowledges the incredible efforts of our junior athletes, who’ve shown compassion, athletic drive and determination to chase their sporting dreams,” he says.
Winning a scholarship normally means a chance to dress up and head out. Scholarships would normally be presented at the annual Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Dinner but current restrictions mean the Scholarship Holders and Mentors will be meeting virtually.
For Reba, that’s just another adjustment forced by the pandemic.
“I am never going to take training for granted again – or just going out for a coffee,” she laughs.
“I have my good days and my bad days.
“I’ll have a really good week, training and really motivated and then the next week I’ll be just a bit down.
“I just try to push through it.”
The indominable spirit of the Australian Taekwondo community is lighting the way.
Reba was recently featured in an episode of Australian Taekwondo Talk where her drive, focus and humility are clear for all to see. Listen here: https://bit.ly/3lJ8Ctg