Australian Taekwondo CEO Heather Garriock has wasted little time in getting down to business in her new role, cementing a partnership with World Taekwondo Oceania.
Australia is part of Oceania in the fledgling combat sport, and qualifies for major tournaments through the region. However the relationship between the two governing bodies has been virtually non-existent.
Garriock, who has been in the role since November 1, made a point of repairing and building the relationship and has started off strongly, organising the inaugural 2021 Australian & Oceania Taekwondo Gajok Games to be held early next year.
“It is important we work together to build taekwondo, it is a big sport in the Oceania region and it’s vital Australian Taekwondo has a strong working relationship with the region’s major governing body,” said Garriock. “The Gajok Games will be a wonderful way for the sport to reinvigorate itself post COVID19.”
The exciting event will be held on the Gold Coast on in March. The tournament will help provide Australia’s taekwondo enthusiasts the perfect chance to showcase their skills to a wider audience.
Garriock has worked closely with Stuart Lee, the Secretary General of World Taekwondo Oceania, to get the tournament going.
Lee was keen to promote the event as an opportunity for the entire teakwondo community to find their enthusiasm for active participation again.
“The 2020 year has been difficult and challenging for everyone especially club owners and taekwondo students,” said Lee. “The covid year is nearly over though and what better time to announce that the 2021 Australian & Oceania Taekwondo Gajok Games will be held on the Gold Coast on 27-28 March 2021.
“The event which is being organised and promoted by both Australian Taekwondo and Oceania Taekwondo, will be a time to celebrate what we hope will be a healthy and prosperous new 2021 year for the entire taekwondo community.
“The Kyorugi, Poomsae and Para event will be open to many divisions from kids coloured belts to open black belts including teams. This will be a worldwide open event but because of travel restrictions to Australia, it is expected that the majority of athletes will be from Australia and New Zealand.
“Consequently, it will not be a world ranked event for senior black belt competitors. Nonetheless, because it is the first major Taekwondo event of the 2021 calendar, it will be the first opportunity for competitors to compete in a Covid free environment for a very long time.
“It is a time for clubs and families to get together to celebrate the new year on the sunny Gold Coast, QLD and as it is the week before easter the opportunity is there to stay longer in QLD and have your first holiday for a very long time.”
The event underlines Garriock’s plans to focus on the entire Australian taekwondo community, not just the elite high performance athletes.
Garriock is hopeful the event will get TV coverage or at least be streamed online.
“We would love to get coverage of this event,” admitted Garriock. “It’s important we showcase the wonderful talent we have in Taekwondo.
“We have some fabulous athletes in Safwan Khalil, Jack Marton, Stacey Hymer and Reba Stewart representing Australia next year at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“But this event is for everyone. 95% of our participants are those that participate in the sport for fun. We need to focus on them too.
“This event on the Gold Coast will give participants no matter what belt they have, a great chance to test themselves against the region’s best.”
Garriock has won widespread praise for the zest with which she has taken on her new role. Within the space of a month-and-a-half she has already broken down barriers Taekwondo has faced and has worked hard behind the scenes to build networks.
The former Matilda legend insists her work is only just beginning, promising plenty more ideas that will come to fruition as she looks to build participation in the sport which currently sits at 50,000, with only 13,500 registered with Australian Taekwondo.
“I want the sport to become mainstream in Australia. I want our athletes to be household names.
“We need more people from all ages and sizes enjoying taekwondo and what it has to offer.”
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