Special Olympics aim pushed

By Sam Hurley

A Hawke's Bay taekwondo teacher is set to release a new book this year in an effort to have the sport inducted into the Special Olympics.

Ben Evans and Anton Randell co-wrote Because I Can as a teaching manual for taekwondo instructors who tutor special needs children, after Evans began teaching the sport to kids with disabilities in 2007.

The 22-year-old began teaching special needs at Havelock North High School initially to just seven students but he witnessed first-hand the many inspirational stories that accompanied his work.

Now he has five classes throughout Hawke's Bay and says many more parents and students contact him about wanting to get involved in the martial art.

He said the most satisfying aspect of his teaching was seeing the changes and development in his students.

"A parent came and told me their son couldn't ride a bike, and now he can because taekwondo has helped them."

The New Zealand world champs representative said the sport gave his students added energy, focus and fitness which they had never had before.

"It becomes a part of their lives," he said. "I wanted to help the community the best way I could and this was the best way to start out."

In 2011 he travelled to Korea to talk to the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) about its involvement in the special needs community and gain support for a Special Olympics bid.

"So far we have seven countries on board - there are a total of 127 ITF countries and we want to get as many of them involved as possible," he said.

Randell became involved when he learned of the good-natured work Mr Evans was doing. He said he wanted to help the book gain exposure in the global taekwondo audience.

"Most of the research we did was for New Zealand, then we realised how global it was becoming, so we are now trying to give it some relevance in a global market."

Mr Evans said his goal right from the start was always to get the sport into the Special Olympics.

"We need as many ITF countries on board as possible," he said.

"Special Olympics New Zealand want to see it happen."

On a recent visit to Hawke's Bay, Prime Minister John Key was given a demonstration by Mr Evans and some of his students. While in Korea he gave a speech to ITF president and International Olympic Committee member Dr Chang Ung.

"He was completely supportive of the idea and hoped one day there would be a special needs taekwondo world champs," Mr Evans said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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