BY NIDHA KHAN
We may be a small country, but we’re brimming with talent – dominating the world stage once again. Take, for example, 17 year old Bianca Koper, the first New Zealander to take out the title of World Champion in Sparring (65 plus junior female) at the 2017 International Taekwondo Federative Championship in Ireland. She’s a young kiwi on the rise and someone we were thrilled to interview. You can catch our interview with her right here.
How did it feel to win your latest title, World Champion, at the 2017 International Taekwondo Federative Championship in Ireland?
Winning the World Championship title in Sparring was unreal. It didn’t sink in until I was back in New Zealand receiving all of the congratulations from family, friends and other people. Earning the biggest title in my sport, so early, and at my first international competition, proved that I am an athlete capable of great things and that every bit of my hard work, training and sacrifices along the campaign was worth it. I surprised so many people, but I think I was the most surprised out of everyone. It has given me so much more confidence in my ability and has inspired me to aim for so many more goals and much bigger dreams for the future. It’s the best way I could start my international career and get my long term journey in Taekwondo going.
What made you first decide to try out Taekwondo?
The only reason I started Taekwondo was because of my older brother. When he started it, I was doing gymnastics at the same time. So, my parents decided to switch me over to Taekwondo because it was easier for them. I wasn’t enjoying gymnastics much anyway and ended up loving the first session of Taekwondo. I stuck with it from then on, especially as I was further encouraged when I was presented with ‘The Most Promising’ student trophy at the club just after few months.
Can you remember the moment where you decided that you’d like to compete in Taekwondo?
It was after my first tournament where I lost in every event I had competed in. After that, I wanted to prove to myself and everyone that I am capable of winning and transferring my skills learned in training into the sparring rings. Then later after my 3rd tournament which I finally won, I knew I wanted to compete regularly as an athlete and eventually go into international events.
What do you love most about learning, practicing, and/or competing in Taekwondo?
What I love the most is everything you gain and receive out of training. The best being relationships you build with other students and coaches. They’re lifelong friends who are alongside you as you grow as an athlete and a person.
As well as the relationships, I love that I can give back to others who are also learning and practicing Taekwondo. Through all of my time spent in this sport, it is always a privilege being able to take some classes on my own, and coach younger students to help them along their journey. There’s no better feeling than when you see others, which you help, succeed in what they’re doing.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and how have you dealt/are dealing with them?
My main challenges are my personal thoughts. I beat myself a lot when I didn’t do something right and was scared of humiliation. Once I pushed those thoughts aside, I learnt not to care about what everyone else would think of me and that humiliation and mistakes are the only way I can truly grow and get further in what I’m doing. Now whenever I’m in the ring, I block everything out and only focus on my opponent. In training, if I make a mistake I just laugh it off and try again and again.
What are some misconceptions you think people have about Taekwondo?
General misconception can be a thought that you need to be in good physical condition and in a certain age frame to become successful at this sport. Anyone is capable of starting and succeeding at Taekwondo. There are little kids (TKD kubs) starting from 3 years old to people aged over 60 starting out, earning higher ranks and taking part in competitions. Taekwondo is catered for everyone and physical capability is barely a limitation.
You train nearly every day of the week, how do you balance that along with school and your private life?
My priorities are; study first, then training, then work and after that everything else. I have become very organised as my training schedule became very demanding. I stick to my schedule to manage my commitments. Whenever I have free time I always try to go out with friends and get some time to do what I want. I had some time between school and training when I wasn’t working, then I did more of my homework and caught up on some sleep. This way the weekends were free to do what I wanted between my trainings. It’s all about prioritising the right things at the right time.
What advice would you give to other people who want to try out Taekwondo?
Have patience and stick with it. Beginnings can be a little frustrating because you just want to learn all the cool stuff. Without building the foundation first it will take a lot longer to get to all the spectacular moves, patterns and kicks. Get through the start and you’ll be doing the cool 360 degree kicks all over the place in no time. The most important is not to be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. It’s surprising what you are capable of when you give it a go! And of course, you need to have fun while doing it, enjoy every moment of it.
NIDHA KHAN is a public health graduate who spends her time writing about human rights, youth activism, and social issues. She’s also a lover of puns, a terrible cook, and is on a mission to hug every pug in sight. Check out more of her work here:
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