Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Taekwondo: O'Neill faces tough hurdle for Rio

Add a comment
Rhiannon O'Neill will chase an Olympic berth at the Oceania Qualification Tournament in Papua New Guinea next month. Photo / John Borren
Rhiannon O'Neill will chase an Olympic berth at the Oceania Qualification Tournament in Papua New Guinea next month. Photo / John Borren

Rhiannon O'Neill is one step away from selection for the Olympics.

The Tauranga/Mount TKO fighter was selected in December as one of two New Zealand females to contest the Oceania Qualification Tournament in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on February 27.

Just one fighter will make it to the Rio Olympics in the women's 57kg to 67kg category and O'Neill will have to beat Australian Carmen Marton.

I need to fight for myself, not everyone else. It is make or break in this competition.
Rhiannon O'Neill

Marton won the women's lightweight gold medal at the 2013 World Taekwondo Championships, becoming Australia's first world taekwondo champion.

But O'Neill is more than up for the challenge of beating Marton.

"I need to fight for myself, not everyone else. It is make or break in this competition. I feel heaps more confident about fighting her," O'Neill said.

"I remember the first time. The fact she has got a world title behind her and has been to the London Olympics can play a little bit on your mind. Obviously I haven't been up as far as she has achieved but I believe in myself more now which is good."

O'Neill is a long-time national under-62kg champion and highly-qualified second dan black-belt holder. She had to wait since last July's Pacific Games for the news she had been selected for Papua New Guinea.

"I was hopeful and you can never lose faith when it's your dream. You just can't.

"When I heard the news I had been selected it was pretty late and it didn't really hit until the next day to be honest.

"I was very happy with it. More stress but less stress if that makes sense, having to wait. Olympics has been the goal ever since I first started which was aged seven."

Read more: Rugby: Cane delighted to give back

O'Neill is looking forward to ramping up her training before the Oceania qualifiers under the guidance of her father, Master Kesi O'Neill, a New Zealand coach and president of NZTU (NZ United Taekwondo Association).

Master Kesi O'Neill. Photo/file
Master Kesi O'Neill. Photo/file

"We have an Australian team from Perth coming over next week, which is good, for a training camp with different people and good sparring partners," she said.

Master Kesi said Rhiannon's flexibility was a real strength of hers.

"She can really work with the kick and get head shots, which is where you get more points. She is getting stronger. We are doing a lot of work on strengthening her legs like box jumps - an ability to stand on one leg and kick for as long as she can," he said.

"It will come down to whoever has the right mind-frame and whoever wants it on the day. The mind-frame works with the body, that's what I believe in. It is what we call the New Zealand way, that extra 5 per cent to give you that edge, which is what we are trying to do."

The emerging talent training camp featuring a top Australian team will be held from January 24-28 based at Tauranga/Mount TKO in Newton St, Mount Maunganui.

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 27 Sep 2016 01:51:04 Processing Time: 452ms