One of the most prestigious tae kwon do tournaments to be held in Tauranga in recent years took place over the weekend.

The NZUTA Open Taekwondo Championship attracted 250 athletes from 24 clubs, including international teams from Australia, New Caledonia and Tahiti, plus three international referees.

The event showcasing the Olympic version of tae kwon do was held at the Tauranga Boys' College gym and proudly hosted by Tauranga and Mount Maunganui TKO Clubs.

Organiser and president of the NZUTA, master Kesi O'Neill from Team TKO, says the event was significant on the tae kwon do calendar.


"It is quite important as we are looking for the 2020 Olympics and we need to have events like this for our competitors. We have the Oceanias coming up in Tahiti in August and we have the president and vice-president of the Tahitian federation here," he says.

"Tahiti are very strong. They are one of the top countries in the Oceania region."

O'Neill was pleased with how many clubs attended and how far some had to travel.

"It has been pleasing to see we have 24 clubs here. The furthest have come from Invercargill and the overseas teams. We are fortunate too to have the international referees here to help with the local and national referees."

Finding the next talented athletes who can step up to reach Olympic standard is an ongoing work in progress for O'Neill and the other dedicated tae kwon do trainers and coaches.

He says it all comes down to attitude.

"It is a matter of how much do they want it. And it comes down to that attitude of believing in themselves, the support around them and how the community can help as it is pretty hard to get there."

Tahitian Taekwondo Federation president Tamu Tufariua was delighted to be in New Zealand and says the tournament in Tauranga was important for the development of his tae kwon do teams.


"I want to open my students to the international level and New Zealand is the closest country to do that and I am friends with Master Kesi so that is why we wanted to come here," Tufariua says.

"This tournament is like a test to prepare our athletes, some of who are going for the Oceanias."