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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 September 2016
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM USMA competitors scale the heights at Taekwondo World Championships Australian team coach Spiridon Cariotis (R) pictured outside the stadium in Brighton with daughter and medallist Anastasia. PHOTO: USMA TAEKWONDO, WWW.USMATAEKWONDO.COM GEORGE STOGIANNOU To represent your country successfully on the world stage is the dream of many talented athletes, as they aspire to excellence in their sport. Thirteen taekwondo competitors from the Clayton-based United Schools of Martial Arts ( USMA) recently competed for Australia against the best in the world at the 2016 International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) World Championships in Brighton, England. According to one of the competitors, Anastasia Cariotis, "the level of competition was incredibly fierce, but I think Australia really made its mark on the world stage this time round − so fantastic!" Cariotis' father, Spiridon, is the founder of USMA and, together with Chris Galibert, was head coach of the 40 strong Australian team. "I think he was proud of all his students," Anastasia says of her father. "It's his life's work, taekwondo. It's been since the early ‘90s. I was one of his first students as a little four-yearold girl. Dad set up his first taekwondo school in an old Hall in Ashburton. I remember him training very hard and building up the school. The school is actually a very, very powerful school now. In Victorian taekwondo, it's one of the best places to be. If you want to compete on the world stage, USMA Taekwondo is where it's at really, because they've got a lot of very passionate people who are very good at what they do. The instructors are fantastic." The contingent of 13 USMA competitors in the Australian team collected 37 medals at the recent world championships and included individual gold medals for female sparring to Marcia Tsiros and Linda Wise, as well as a silver to Carysse Shean. Anastasia Cariotis also won her first-ever medal for Australia, capturing bronze in the patterns category. "This campaign in particular, I set a goal for myself and that was to achieve a medal overseas. I'm really happy with the result." Staged just prior to the Olympic Games in Rio, the ITF World Championships differs from the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) form of taek- wondo, which, since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, has become an Olympic sport. As such the Australian ITF team at the world championships had to self-fund its participation in the tournament. According to Cariotis "ITF competitors in Australia aren't given financial assistance (from governments). They have to fund it on their own, and rely on call-outs for sponsorship, a lot of goodwill, friends and family, local businesses. Which is a very nice and community thing to do. But if you're out on a world stage to represent your country, you would hope there's some acknowledgement as well". "We hope that one day things will change because there's so many people in Australia de- voted to the martial arts and they're funding themselves to give Australia a place on the world stage. So without these people who are so committed, Australia wouldn't have a place, which is a shame, because it's gone so well." As a competitor, Cariotis hopes that one day ITF taekwondo is given the opportunity to become an Olympic sport, "because it's such an amazing martial art. It deserves a place in the Olympic Games as far as I'm concerned. I hope in my lifetime to see that." They may not have participated in the recent Olympics, but the USMA contingent of the Australian ITF team did get to visit the home of the Olympics on their recent trip to Europe. They took the op- portunity to attend an ITF summer training camp held in the town of Litochoro at the base of Mt Olympus, run by eighth degree taekwondo master, Vasilis Alexandris of the Traditional Taekwondo centre of northern Greece. Here they had the chance to observe first-hand some of the training techniques of Master Alexandris and his fellow instructors. "He's a very powerful force in ITF taekwondo in Greece," Cariotis says. "USMA has a strong affiliation with these Greek taekwondo organisations, who are fantastic at what they do. It was an incredible experience training with them and their level is exceptional. They train hard. They're very dedicated." South Melbourne FC Juniors heading back to Spain for another master class South Melbourne Hellas FC is once again looking to learn from masters of the world game in its bid to establish one of the best junior and youth development programs in the country. For the second time this year, South is sending a contingent of junior footballers (U11s and U16s) to Madrid, where they'll have the opportunity to play against players from some of the best junior teams in the world including teams from La Liga giants Real Madrid and Atleti- co Madrid as well as Getafe Leganes and Rayo Vallecano. Accompanying the young South Melbourne footballers to Spain will be South Melbourne FC technical director Strati Xynas and SMFC board members Bill Papastergiadis (whose son is one of the young players) and Andrew Mesourouni. Xynas sees the trip to Spain as providing a great opportunity for the Hellas juniors to play against some of the world's best young players. "The lessons learnt from our first participation was invaluable, as we continue to improve the development program of our juniors at South Melbourne." South Melbourne FC president Leo Athanasakis believes the trip "will open doors for our team" and help keep it at the forefront of clubs in Australia. "It's a journey of a lifetime for these children," he said. SMFC's head of youth football and development, Andrew Mesourouni, has invested considerable time and money into the program, which has been made possible largely through his international football contacts. "This is a trip of a lifetime for the boys who'll also get the opportunity to watch Real Madrid play Barcelona and also train under professional Spanish coaches," he says. Mesourouni himself will also get the opportunity to meet and discuss ideas with technical directors from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, which he hopes can also benefit SMFC's youth development programs in the long run. The little legends with their coach. PHOTO: KOSTAS DEVES.
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