A golden moment for Whakarau

By Regan Paranihi

Janae Whakarau, from the small settlement of Shannon in the Manawatu, recently competed at the Tae Kwon Do Championships in Germany where she brought home two gold medals.  Over sixty countries competed at the event and New Zealand managed to secure second place overall.

From training in the backyard, Whakarau has now made an impact on the world stage.

"[There were] sixty nations, just the intensity was unreal and it's pretty much indescribable," she says.

Whakarau entered the sport at the age of nine when she went along to training with her older sisters, now at the age of sixteen, she has built a fearsome reputation across the country.

"I've been competing heaps for New Zealand nationals.  I've been pretty successful, I've been a top red belt for female and top black belt for female so it's pretty amazing."

She competed in seven events at the championships and was without a medal after her sixth, making her hungry to chase that gold.

"So I broke [the block] and then it was all up to the Argentinian to break it, so when she went up there I was getting so nervous, like 'please don't break it' and when she didn't break it I just fell to the ground with my hands on my face and started crying.  I was focusing on winning that gold and I won the gold and it was absolutely crazy."

She says her family have been her backbone throughout this journey and commends them for all their support.

"My parents, they were just amazing.  Dad had to get extra hours of work just to get the money even though that we don't have that much money and they got me to Ireland and Germany."

Whakarau has some advice for those who want to pursue this pathway.

"Just go for it, train hard.  If you want to do it, just do it- no regrets."

Next month Whakarau will refocus and begin her training for next year's championships.