Aussies Carmen Marton and Safwan Khalil using pain of London to Taekwondo to Rio
The pain of missing out on an Olympic medal can haunt an athlete, but it can also become a powerful driving force – doubly so when husband and wife feel exactly the same pain.
For Carmen Marton and Safwan Khalil the London Olympic Games in 2012 did exactly that.
Both narrowly missed out on bronze medals in taekwondo two years ago, losing their medal bouts.Now they’re desperate to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
It’s driven Marton to become Australia’s first ever world champion, after a chat with cycling’s golden girl Anna Meares at London inspired her.
Back then taekwondo had no government funding and the husband-wife team started preparing just six months before London. Meares’ campaign had started two-and-a-half years earlier.
Now the Australian Institute of Sport’s renewed interest in combat sports is helping them try and follow Meares’ tyre track and wipe out the pain from London.
They spent the week at the AIS’s new combat centre preparing for the first of a series of grand prix events in China in July, which is a series of qualifying events for Rio.
“It still haunts me, it still haunts me, devastating. But I learnt an incredible lot about my preparation, especially on the day itself,” 27-year-old Marton said.
“What sort of things influence me throughout the day, how to maintain my focus, what game I should be playing and I really took those lessons and implemented it into the world championships and it was successful.
“Even though it’s still very painful whenever I think about the Olympics and how close we both were to coming away with a medal there, I guess everything happens for a reason because it really pushed us and has taken us to the next level now.”
But it’s not just Marton and Khalil pushing each other to get to Rio, it’s their whole family.
Marton’s Poland-born parents got her into the sport from a young age and her brother Jack and sister Caroline are also part of the national squad.
Khalil’s brother, Ali, is the national coach and it was also his parents who encouraged him to take it up, trying to find an avenue for him and his seven brothers to channel their energy.
The 28-year-old felt he wasn’t mentally prepared for the Olympics last time around, but says the experience of walking out in front of 10,000 people had changed all that.
While missing out on medals in London is driving them towards Brazil, if one of them had made the podium two years ago they might both have retired with their focus shifting to starting a family and careers.
But Khalil’s only focus now is ensuring there are no “what-ifs” at Rio.
“Absolutely it burns, it burnt for a good couple of months afterwards. The fact that me and Carmen both just missed out so we were on the same page, it wasn’t like she walked away with a medal and I didn’t, so we were both kicking ourselves for a couple of months,” he said.
“But it just made us hungrier and made us both want to drive on. We had different plans before London, but once we both missed out we were … pushing on to Rio.”
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (David Polkinghorne)