Fighting for an Olympic dream
Taekwondo is not merely a sport for Carmen Marton – it’s a way of life. The 25-year-old black belt from the Melbourne Taekwondo Centre will be Australia’s sole female representative at this year’s London Olympics.
Softly spoken off the Taekwondo mats, in her element she kicks, punches and when the opportunity presents itself, knocks her opponents out.
Introduced to the Martial by her father, former Taekwondo champion Andrew Marton, as a way to drag her from the television, Carmen soon fell in love with the sport. A mere six years later at the age of 14, she would find herself on her first national squad.
“I am very grateful to him for encouraging me to do something different and to be the best I could be… it was him who had instilled those values of dedication, self-belief and resilience in me from the very beginning, forming a strong foundation for my future as an Australian representative.”
The South Korean martial art is based around trying to land tactical kicks and strikes to an opponent’s head and torso. Fighters wear protective guards to their head, shins, feet, hands and groin. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old has seen her fair share of injuries, both to herself and direct opponents: en route to qualification, she knocked out an opponent cold with her heel.
As part of the sport, she takes all injuries in her stride – and has learnt to give as good as she gets.
“I have had a broken arm and broken hand, but after having operations they were quick to heal- As an athlete you have to do the right thing- taping, ice, physio, rehab/strengthening exercises for the rest of your life. There’s no way out of it – you have to take responsibility for your body.”
London will truly be a family affair for Marton, with fiancé Safwan Khalil is Australia’s only male representative, while future brother-in-law Ali Khalil is Olympic and National coach. Having met Safwan at a Junior World Championship in Greece ten years ago, Carmen could not be happier to share her second Olympic games with her husband-to-be.
“Professionally and emotionally it is great. I love being surrounded by his hard working attitude – it’s contagious! It’s definitely a bonus to have someone you love involved in the sport who can empathise and pick you up when you are down.”
Extraordinarily, Carmen and Safwan’s journey to the Olympics has predominantly been funded through donations and sponsors. As a low profile sport in Australia, her and Safwan’s London dreams has received no government funding.
In between travelling and competing, they both have full time jobs to make ends meet. Having to self-fund their journeys however has been a motivating factor to make the most of their rare opportunity.
“It has been very difficult to be honest – to not stress about funding while still preparing for the Games. It’s frustrating to lose a lot of energy having to focus on that aspect when we’d much rather be solely focusing on our training and preparation. But hopefully if all goes well, it will be worth it and feel even more special knowing how hard we’ve had to work for it!”
Despite a hectic schedule based around intense training and competing overseas, Marton is not one to forget where she came from. Having paid visits to interclub competitions, the couple have also been able to share a few words to those who are now in the same position as they were ten years ago.
“She’s always been a role model, not just to me but my teammates. She’s taken up a sport, set goals and has been able to reach the highest levels,” said 14-year-old Australian representative Askin Ovali. Ovali recently fought in the Junior World Championships in Egypt, ironically enough in the same division as Safwan is fighting in London.
“I’ve only met Safwan recently and he’s had a big effect as he’s in my division. It gives me a benchmark to aim at but also gives me butterflies in my stomach seeing how good he is!”
A veteran of the sport already, Marton has seen her beloved sport revolutionised by technology, with London being the first Olympics adjudicated by electronic sensors implanted in competitors’ torso shields. Having finished in ninth place at the Beijing Olympics, Carmen told Samantha Lane she sees no reason as to why she can’t go all the way this time around.
“I’ve never believed that anyone’s better than me, because I think when you start doing that you’ve already lost the fight,”