October 5, 2019:
First International Special Needs Taekwon-Do Games (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand)
On October 5, 2019, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand was the site of the International Special Needs Taekwon-Do Games – the first ever World Championships dedicated solely to Special Needs Taekwon-Do athletes. It was an honor to have my son, Darryl Andaya represent Canada and would like to thank our International Taekwon-Do Federation for allowing Darryl to attend.
Mr. Ben Evans, Tournament host, wanted this event to be the first ever Taekwon-Do tournament that is non-political and focused only on the betterment of Taekwon-Do students with varying special needs.
It was truly a remarkable day as 10 countries, namely: Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the Netherlands, Iran, Ethiopia, Russia, Malaysia, and England, all from different ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation) organizations, as well as the WT (World Taekwondo Federation), sent delegates to compete at this historic competition. For the first time the Taekwon-Do community, both Chang-Hon and Olympic style was united in a common objective: the provision of opportunities for people with Special Needs.
The spirit of inclusion and support was evident in the air for the whole event as representatives from all countries show their support not only for their own athletes but also for their competitors from other countries. None more evident as when Mr. Darryl Andaya, Canada’s sole delegate immediately, became a crowd favourite after winning his Pattern competition. From then on, chants of “Canada! Canada!” would immediately start whenever he stepped on the mat. It was a huge morale boost for the delegates and a very spiritual experience for their supporters.
Darryl competed in 4 of 5 events: Patterns, Mixed Abilities, Power breaking and High Kick, winning 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze, respectively. Team Patterns was the only event he didn’t compete on as a minimum of 3 competitors was needed. Mr. Darius Andaya, V Dan, Darryl’s dad and coach, also received a gold medal for their excellent performance at their mixed abilities event. Darryl and dad performed a prearranged sparring choreography which seems to be a first for the other ITF groups. In the end, Team Canada was also awarded the 4th Best Country award; quite an accomplishment for a team of one. ☺
Equally impressive was the support coming from the local government and local businesses in Hawkes Bay. Free accommodations were offered courtesy of the Hohepa Special Needs School including free shuttle rides between the town and the school. At the local McDonald’s, as well as the National Aquarium, without asking for it, we received a discount just because they saw our team tracksuit and learned that we were there for the championships. The local Maori tribe also donated a native Hangi lunch (cooked underground through geothermal ovens) for all the athletes. It was truly an awe-inspiring experience, due to the fact that although the spirit of competition was there, the spirit of support and inclusion was never diminished. The Haka (ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield) was also performed to the delight of the visitors.
That same night a free barbeque dinner and dance party was arranged courtesy of the Hohepa Special Needs School. It was so good to see everyone have fun together when a few hours before, they were just competing against each other.
For the next few days, Mr. Evans and some of the other local parents gave us a tour of the city.
In closing, on behalf of my son Darryl and our whole family I would again like to express our sincere thanks to the ITF of B.C., the CFTI and our ITF for allowing Darryl to attend and benefit from attending the First International Special Needs Taekwon-Do Games.
Yours in Taekwon-Do Darryl and Family