Dan Yates and Janae Whakarau are just two of six Levin taekwondo martial artists selected to represent New Zealand at the world championships in Bavaria, Germany in three weeks' time.

Both are 16 and have a 2nd dan black belt in the sport. They are going full of expectations and with high hopes, while aiming for gold.

"You have to have a black belt to qualify for selection to the national team," said Janae.

"Selection takes place over three camps and is a three-month process. About 65 hopefuls turned up for the selection process. The New Zealand team this year consists of 22 junior [14 to 17] and 28 seniors [over 18]," Dan said.


It will be Janae's second world championship. She went to Ireland last year and came back with three medals. It will be Dan's first world championship, but he has already travelled to exotic places with his sport.

He's been to Sydney, Budapest and Jamaica, where he won gold at age 12. Travel and making new friends is high on their list of reasons why they like taekwondo.

"I thought it was cool and I love the competition," said Janae, who plays several other sports such as volleyball and basketball at serious levels. For Dan it was about gaining new friends and experiences.

Both belong to a high-performance team in the Manawatū as well and train on Thursdays and Saturdays for a couple of hours. The New Zealand team train together once a month in either Palmerston North or Auckland.

At the world championships they will be against competitors with more experience, even in their age group, and from countries that are tough to beat.

"Competitors from Ireland, Argentina and Poland are very good, but New Zealand has been in the top three."

They are looking forward to taking on high-calibre opponents and find out where they themselves stack up in the world rankings, said Dan.

Both got involved in the sport because siblings or class mates were into it and once they were persuaded to come and have a look they were hooked.


They both belong to the Southern Cross Taekwondo Academy in Palmerston North and attend Waiopehu College in Levin.

Selection does not stop at ability though. There is always a financial component - without funds, selection is hollow.

The trip to Germany will cost each competitor $6500 and that does not include spending money or most food. Add to that the fact Janae will be taking her mum and Dan both his parents and his sister, who also does taekwondo, and it all adds up.

At least it means they will have plenty of support on the spot and they are lucky in that one of the national team's coaches is also their club coach.

"We've been fundraising all year and on Saturday night we are holding a quiz night at the Levin Club from 7.30pm. Entry is $10 per person and we are hoping to make up teams of six each, so bring your friends. No need to belong to the Levin Club."

For more information or sponsorship of these talented and highly motivated youngsters ring Steve Yates on 021 192 3960.