BEIJING - New Zealand go kicking and screaming into their Olympic taekwondo programme tomorrow although a painfully tough draw may have dulled the excitement for the three Games newcomers.
The aftermath of a draw from hell sees Logan Campbell testing his nerve against world champion Yu-Chi Sung of Chinese Taipei in the men's 68kg division tomorrow.
Veteran Matthew Beach doesn't have it much easier against Chinese world No 5 Xiaobo Liu in the over-80kg heavyweight class on Saturday.
Korean-born Aucklander Robin Cheong has drawn the most winnable bout, lining up against Ivory Coast opponent Mariam Bah in the first contest of the women's 57kg competition tomorrow.
Cheong, 19, gives away international experience to Bah, 32, but New Zealand coach Jin Oh admitted her draw could have been far worse.
"We're happy at the moment because she (Bah) is from Africa. I think we have a chance," Oh said.
He acknowledged it was a dastardly outcome for the men but backed Campbell and Beach to not back down against classy opponents.
"They have high world rankings so they will be difficult," he said.
"But that is not the most important thing. This is the Olympics and nobody knows who will get a medal. It will be who is most confident in competition time and who is more focused."
New Zealand's last competition was in Korea six weeks ago, where Oh was pleased with their form in some high-quality competition.
He has approached rival coaches and fighters from Korea and Thailand for information on New Zealand's opening opponents. Video footage was also proving useful.
Liu shapes as a particularly difficult customer, standing 2m tall and, at 104kg, is 10kg heavier than English-born Wellingtonian Beach, 30, who has represented New Zealand for 11 years.
Campbell, 22, was attracted to the sport aged seven after watching The Karate Kid movies and won an international competition in Korea just six years later.
Balclutha's Verina Wihongi was New Zealand's first taekwondo exponent to compete at the Olympics, in Athens four years ago, where she lost her first round contest and repechage.
The kicking-based sport which demands speed, balance and, seemingly, an ability to scream loudly, was introduced to the Games in 2000.