At just 15 Keira Johns might be forgiven for not expecting to win Ōtaki College’s top sports award.
But win it she did, brushing aside undoubtedly older and more experienced contenders.
Keira would have been helped in award deliberations by her recent success in winning a national taekwondo title – in the 45-59kg women’s grade. The championships at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua on October 1 was her first national competition, and given the grades are based on weight and height – not age – it was a remarkable achievement.
She fought as the holder of a blue belt, defeating an Auckland contender who was graded higher with a red belt. Keira now holds a red belt.
In previous tournaments, which have been only at provincial level, Keira has won silver and bronze – never a gold.
The Year 10 student has been training in the martial art since she was 6, encouraged by her mother, Tracy.
“Mum thought it would be good for my self-esteem,” Keira says. “I was actually quite shy as a kid.”
There’s little evidence now of the reserved girl in days past.
Keira trains with the Ōtaki Taekwondo Club all year round in the gymnasium at Ōtaki College. She’s there every Monday and Wednesday from 5.30-7.30, training diligently under master taekwondo instructor Jim Babbington.
About 30 – mostly younger children – attend regularly, with most of them from local primary schools.
Keiran went to the college senior prize-giving ceremony with parents Allan and Tracy on November 3 having no idea whether she was even in contention for an award.
“It was pretty cool, but I had no clue. It was a real surprise when they read my name out.
“I was so shocked and excited I was shaking.”
Now she’s got a sports award and a national title, what could be next?
“I’ll definitely keep doing it [taekwondo] and I think there will be a few more nationals,” she says with the modesty that comes from sudden success.
Further down the track, however, there would have to be the possibility of competing at Commonwealth or even Olympic Games. By 2024, when the Olympics are scheduled to be held in Paris, she will be only 17, and 21 by the time the Los Angeles Olympics are staged in 2028.
The next Commonwealth Games will be hosted by Victoria, Australia, in 2026.
Paris Karl-Fields is off to Hampshire in the UK early next year, fresh from her success as dux of Ōtaki College. The 18-year-old took the college’s top award at the senior prize-giving on November 3. But unlike most academically talented students, she’s not off to university just yet. Paris is taking a gap year in 2023 to continue... Keep Reading