There's a family tale and extra motivation behind this fighting taekwondo Olympian from Upper Ferntree Gully, finds Roy Ward.
THERE are few bigger achievements than making it to the Olympics and nothing more personal than family, and when the two are mixed together the emotions can be a little confusing.
Upper Ferntree Gully taekwondo star Carmen Marton will represent Australia at the London Olympics but the experience of making the Games is not as uplifting as you might expect.
That is because Carmen’s Olympic dream never involved just making the Olympics. She wanted to do so alongside her sister Caroline and that dream, at least in London, won’t come true.
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The two Martons were on track to make the Games during the Oceania qualifying tournament.
Carmen said her sister was ahead in her bout before a refereeing decision ruled her out by ‘‘punitive declaration’’, despite the fact she held a comfortable lead.
Punitive declarations are given for conduct outside the rules of the sport. The Martons still struggle to understand why such a decision was made.
‘‘We were so close to getting both on the team; it was very heartbreaking. The referee was reprimanded later on, but we had to suffer the consequences.’’
Carmen says Caroline will still travel to London as her official training partner and the duo now dream of competing together in Rio in 2016.
‘‘I find taekwondo is a really family-oriented sport,’’ Carmen said. ‘‘It’s an aim of ours, an unspoken promise for Rio. Making the Olympics was just as much my dream as making it with my sister.’’
Carmen’s teenage brother Jack is also rising through the ranks and she doesn’t rule out his Olympic chances.
Carmen’s fiancee Safwan Khalil will compete in the men’s competition.
The pair trained together regularly in the lead-up to London — Carmen’s second Games. In Beijing, she took ninth place in the women’s 67-kilogram competition.
Carmen’s career in the sport began with her other major male influence, her father Andrew, who introduced her to the sport as an eight year old. Mr Marton had developed his love for taekwondo in his native Poland.
‘‘I don’t know what he was thinking. A normal choice would have been ballet,’’ she jokes.
‘‘I never ever had the feeling that I was a female and couldn’t do anything a man couldn’t do. We never grew up with a difference in gender.
''Our parents made us believe we could be the best we could be. I was always encouraged to train with and fight boys in classes. It was a great base for my career and it gave me that self-belief.’’
Carmen still enjoys the odd sparring session with various male friends. She laughs at the idea certain men in the Knox area could be bragging about going up against her.
‘‘I hope so. Some of my male friends who do the sport might be saying how they ‘copped a good one from her’. I love that sort of environment and the friendships you build up as long as everyone can still joke about it and not take it personally. It’s amazing when you can fight and then laugh it off and hug, then go on with life.’’
The Martons’ love for taekwondo has extended to their own branch of Melbourne Taekwondo Centre in Boronia. Carmen, Caroline and Andrew are all involved in the centre.
Carmen says the centre is a way for the family to see more of each other and a demonstration of their closeness to the Knox area.
‘‘My whole childhood was in this area — I love it. I love the community and having the mountains as a backdrop.
‘‘We have had the centre for five years now and we run it together. It has helped us stick together as a family and let us spread the sport in the community.’’
In a sport in which quick manoeuvres can be the difference between an Olympic medal and elimination, Carmen is focusing heavily on her training and fight scenarios.
Taekwondo at this Olympics involves some new high-scoring kicks that she had to prepare for, along with competitors who use new tactics or moves when competition begins.
‘‘It’s good because I’m still not too nervous. I don’t think I let myself get too excited because I still have to finish training. We will spend a lot of time working on scenarios but you can’t make yourself too prepared because sometimes people come out and fight differently.
‘‘Sometimes in the fight it’s important to have certain skills. Sometimes it’s better to stick to a very simple kick. There are lot of tactics you need to apply to get through.’’
If Carmen ever needs inspiration, she never looks any further than her own parents, Andrew and Ala.
‘‘Both of them work two jobs and have been our taxi drivers and major sponsors, ’’ Carmen says.
‘‘Mum works at a high school for disabled kids and also works as a home respite worker for Knox Council. Dad works in painting and renovations and runs the centre.
‘‘They are both hard-working role models who have never stopped us achieving our goals. They are very selfless. I suppose they are my inspiration, my cheer squad and biggest fans.’’
While Carmen is looking for Olympic glory, Knox Athletics will again send several club members to London — middle-distance runners Jeff Riseley (800 metres and 1500 metres), Kaila McKnight (1500 metres) and Zoe Buckman (150 metres).
Riseley and McKnight paid tribute to Knox and revered running coach Richard Huggins during interviews with the Weekly leading into the games.
All three runners are now coached by respected elite level coach Nic Bideau and are hoping to achieve personal bests at the Games.
Former Knox Raiders junior basketballer Belinda Snell will also represent Australia in London as part of the Opals team. She spent a few seasons of junior basketball with the Raiders while growing up in Gippsland.