Grasshopper' evolves, breaks barriers

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

BREAKING OUT of one's cocoon is often a special and memorable time for many people.

Akin to a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis to evolve into a delicate butterfly, youngsters tend to grow up innately aware one can't hurry growth but simply prepare to embrace and nurture it.

When Tanielu Pio caught a glimpse of a taekwondo demonstration in primary school one day he found an affinity with the martial art.

The then 7-year-old Samoan-born went home to his parents, Sililo and Fulisia Pio, to share his excitement.

A Hastings family whose children played predominantly rugby, the couple told their son: "Put your heart and mind to it if you want to do something in that sport."

When Tanielu first graced the dojang of BayCity Taekwondo in Hastings, the youngster found himself face-to-face with other "grasshoppers".

"I was pretty shy. I didn't talk much [to the other boys and girls]," the 14-year-old said from Auckland before jetting off to Australia's Gold Coast for the Oceania Taekwondo Championship this weekend.

Like any good coach, black belt instructor Camille Pruckmuller urged Tanielu to shed his shackles to experiment with a discipline that might make him realise his potential.

"I was about 10 years old when I broke out of it and started talking to other people," the Hastings Boys' High School student says.

By then he had moved from the grasshoppers grade to the beginners and picked up a yellow belt with full combat taekwondo.

Last year the teenager became a black belt in Hastings.

His trip to the Gold Coast this weekend with Grand Master Oh is a testimony to his growth, not just physically and tactically but also mentally.

Thomas Oh, 18, a BayCity member who is not related to the grand master, is also part of the New Zealand team although he is now studying at Auckland University.

Grand Master Oh, of the Se Jong gym in Auckland, mentored Olympians Logan Campbell and Vaughn Scott.

It's a memorable moment for Tanielu who will become the first member of his family to represent New Zealand in sport.

"They are really proud of me," says the HBHS E grade rugby flanker who will fight in the under-55kg division.

His brother, Fetu Pio, 21, a police officer, was a Hawke's Bay Colts representative while Uefa, 19, a Wattie's employee like his father, was a Wakely Shield representative, and Venese, 23, studying at Victoria University, made the third XV at HBHS.

He is a little nervous about having to embrace "something different" from Grand Master Oh, considering Pruckmuller has taught him everything to date.

Born in the main island of Savaii, Tanielu was still in his mother's womb when his parents visited Wellington in 1977.

She returned to Samoa where Tanielu was born on December 7 before they returned to settle in Hastings a few years later.

Pruckmuller, who also caught a flight to the Oceania champs as a spectator, says Tanielu comes from a family who have a natural flair and passion for sports.

"In the next four years, who knows, he could be at the Rio Olympics," she says, delighted two BayCity members are representing the country at the champs this weekend.

The Oceania champs will be employing the services of electronic socks linked to electronic sensor pads.

"It doesn't matter how hard you kick in taekwondo, it's the technique that matters most.

"Bashers don't win. In the old days you could bash someone if you had a heavier kick to win but now it's all about speed and accuracy," Pruckmuller says.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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