Deanna Kyriazopoulos is one of the nation’s young prospects in the Olympics’ preferred kick-and-punch martial art. At 19, she has already been a member of the Australian senior team for three years, and carried the flag for the country at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games last September in Ashgabat, in Turkmenistan. Deanna talks to Inside Sport about how she started out in the sport…
“My coach is Ali Khalil, who is the brother of Safwan Khalil, who represented Australia at the last Olympics. His partner, Carmen Marton, was also on the team at Rio, and so was her sister Caroline. It is a quite tight community, taekwondo in Australia … I train with Safwan every day. The girls are based in Melbourne, so I don’t train with them anymore. You do get the benefit from hearing about their experiences, and learning from them.
“In a couple of weeks, I’m going to Combat Centre [at the AIS]. We go to training camp, and we usually have an international team come train with us. It’s a very nice place to train. I know a junior team had gone one time, and they were woken up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I didn’t go to that camp.”
“I travelled overseas 12 or 13 times a year … I was in Turkmenistan for the Asian Games, in Ashgabat. It was crazy, because it’s so hard to get into that country as a tourist. We know our competition days, so in-between we get to sight-see. But in countries like Turkmenistan, we’re in an athlete village and it’s unsafe to leave that perimeter.
“We do get to travel to a number of countries – I don’t know of a country that doesn’t have a national taekwando team. Everyone’s competing, it’s become such a big sport: Cote d’Ivoire and Jordan won gold medals at the last Olympics. I also went to Uzbekistan this year, which was interesting as well. I’ve been to some crazy countries.”
Meeting the challenge
“The thing with taekwando is, we can’t base what we’re doing off a time. What you do on the day counts. The more you compete the better, the more training camps, the better. That’s why we travel to compete, so we are getting those top-quality players. And you have to go often; just a few comps a year won’t cut it.
“If you train with someone better than you, the better. You need someone challenging you, frustrating you, and mentally making you stronger. It really shows in your fighting as well. If something doesn’t go right, you can’t swallow that moment. You need to press re-start and continue fighting. You’ve got to keep pushing forward.”