31 May 2023

Training partners prove to be Australia’s secret weapon for World Championships 

Training partners are often the unsung heroes of sport, but they are the backbone of a team’s success at major tournaments. 

Taekwondo National Performance Centre Program Coach, Ryan Carneli, says training partners are especially vital in Taekwondo. 

“Taekwondo is hard, especially with the mental stress of an important competition. There are physical demands on your body, and you need the discipline to continue showing up to training, knowing that you’ll have to be in a certain mindset to get through the session,” Carneli says. 

“While it is an individual sport, a good training partner is extremely important to your career. They help with motivation; they challenge you physically and they’re there for you when you need to talk things through. 

“They may not realise it, but they’re extremely important to a successful team.” 

With nine NPC athletes qualified for this week’s World Taekwondo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Combat Institute of Australia’s training centre brought in 28 elite Taekwondo athletes as training partners, to ramp up athlete preparation for worlds.

“A good environment is everything and to create a good environment, you need like-minded, positive people. So, with the support of their club coaches, we were able to secure a group of young, motivated athletes that were selfless in the way that they gave up their usual training, work, and Uni schedules, to come into the NPC every day to train and push our National Team members,” Carneli says. 

Over the last two months, the following athletes gave their all in an intense training camp, where their talent and commitment gave the NPC athletes the best possible preparation for the World Championships. 

“We had the three Interstate National Team members join us in Melbourne for a training camp, four Melbourne-based National Team members training at the NPC consistently over the five-week preparation, and then had a further 21 athletes come in at different times to support the Australian Team,” Carneli explains. 

“All of the athletes gave up their time to come to the NPC for training over the five-week training block. Interstate athletes paid their own way to attend, just to help our National Team prepare for the World Championships, which has been very humbling.

“We’ve taken the time to explain to the team that everyone who has come through to train at the NPC has sacrificed money, time and more, just to be there and help them prepare for the World Championships. Everyone has been surprised at the support and are now feeling like their performances are for more than just themselves, it’s for all of Australia.” 

Having won World Championship and World Cup medals, and competed for Australia at the Olympics, Carneli knows just how vital this extra support is to compete on the world stage. 

“I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing training partners in my career. Tumay Hamza, Safwan Khalil and Terrence Fernandez, each helped me to develop into the fighter I was, and I share the importance of training partners with our athletes. 

“You need to find that person that you feel comfortable with and that will support and motivate you as much as you will them.”

The diversity of fighting styles across the group of training partners has been a particular advantage for the National Team, giving them a sneak peek into the different challenges they will encounter in Baku. 

“After the last World Championships, we identified the need for more sparring in training to help us in those close, high-level fights that we’ll face overseas. With the extra sparring partners, we were able to dedicate two days throughout each week for KPNP sparring to put the athletes in real fight scenarios, where one decision could be the difference between a World Championship medal, or nothing.

“We’ve had many KPNP sparring days where our National Team would compete against all the different training partners that have come through. This allows the athletes to fight different styles each time and work on different tactics. 

“We’ve also been able to invite specific athletes that have a style of fighting and physical attributes that will challenge our athletes or that match a specific international athlete that we may come up against at the World Championships. Having a variety of styles from all around Australia has been a big help.” 

Taekwondo NPC Head Coach, Seokhun Lee, said the recent preparations by the Australian team remind him of those made ahead of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. 

“Australia was very strong [at the time] and trained extremely hard. Daniel Trenton, Paul Lyons, Carlo Massimino, Warren Hansen and Lauren Burns were very confident and successful on the international circuit,” Lee says. 

“When I came to Australia as a training partner for Daniel Trenton, I was very impressed with how they dedicated themselves to their training and this current Australian Team reminds me of that generation.

“I don’t know what results we’re going to get in Azerbaijan, but I do know that everyone has trained remarkably hard in the lead up; and thanks to the training partners that have come in to help, like I did back in 1999, I’m sure we’ll find the same success as past Australians.” 

Carneli agrees and says that “while the World Championships is a very hard event, this is the best that I’ve ever seen Australia prepare. I’m very confident that the athletes will make Australia proud.”

The camp has been so competitive that he’s also seen significant improvement amongst the training partners, who show great potential to fly the flag for Australia themselves at a future World Championships. 

“The training partners that have come through the NPC have been able to see the intensity and professionalism that the elite level in Australia train at. Being in the environment, completing the same scenarios, hearing the same advice and fighting the best in Australia each week has helped them just as much as they’ve helped our team. 

“Seokhun and I regularly comment on how much the training partners have improved over the 5-weeks. All of the athletes have also formed friendships with the athletes at the NPC, they’re comfortable asking for advice, although the senior athletes usually approach them first and explain what they need to do and how they can improve. It’s been a great opportunity for everyone to come together with no egos.” 

Carneli hopes that each of these training partners watch the national team trade blows with the world’s best, knowing that they played a huge role in their performance. 

“We just want to thank them on behalf of the whole Australian Team for their selflessness in helping us keep the athletes motivated for the World Championships. They’ve challenged the team and helped keep a positive environment that was needed for the five-week training block. 

“Seokhun and I have a vision to bring everyone together, and by having so many athletes come through and help with this World Championships campaign, they can all now watch Australia on the livestream and support that little bit harder, knowing that they had something to do with each National Team member. The Australian performances are not individual, they’re now shared with everyone.” 

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