Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Rise of the karate kids

Luton Daniel Tham and his brother, Issac Tham. Daniel and Issac hope to represent NZ at the next Olympics in Japan. Photo / Michael Craig
Luton Daniel Tham and his brother, Issac Tham. Daniel and Issac hope to represent NZ at the next Olympics in Japan. Photo / Michael Craig

Karate New Zealand is expecting a spike in membership and exponents switching from other martial arts codes after the sports inclusion in the next Olympics.

"I would expect that we may get some new students join that are looking for the Olympic dream, and see some clubs change from the fundamentals," said Karate NZ head coach Duane Monk.

"Getting into the olympics should raise the level and we may have athletes from other codes, such as tae kwon do, trying their hand at karate for the opportunity to make the team."

Karate will feature as an Olympic sport in Tokyo 2020 for the first time, along with surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing.

Monk said there had been a rise in interest in Karate since New Zealand's record Olympic haul in Rio, and more parents are pushing their children to take up the sport competitively.

A record number of 85 competitors has been selected for the Oceania Championships in New Caledonia this month, the highest since the competition began in 1990.

Monk said there would likely be a single Oceania spot in each of the eight divisions, so the fight to be part of the Olympic squad will be "tough".

"We have a few students currently in NZ that have a chance of making it to the Olympics and would have a chance of a medal," he said.

"But it will be a very difficult path."

Ronald Tham, managing director of a construction company, said it was a "family dream" for his 14-year-old black belt son Daniel to be in the Olympics.

"As a karate exponent myself, I am excited that karate will be in the Olympics," Tham said.
"It is too late for me but I am living my dreams in my children."

Daniel, an Auckland Grammar School boy, trains four times a week for at least three hours at each session.

"I felt so proud watching our Olympians on TV and I hope that one day that would be me," he said.

Sensei Johnny Ling, Daniel's SSKANZ Karate Club chief instructor, believes he has a "fighting chance" to be in the Olympics squad.

"At the time of the Olympics, Daniel will be 18, a ripe age to compete," Ling said.

"But I expect the competition to get into the squad will be really fierce."

- NZ Herald

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