The Australian Muaythai Federation is preparing for the Youth World Championships with another large team, having 37 young athletes signed up to fly to Thailand in August. This furthers the federation’s aim to develop muaythai from the grassroots level across the country.
The federation has made a concerted push in recent years to develop youth sport, seeing it as a pathway to later success for their athletes. And their dedication is certainly paying off. Last year just one family of two sisters and their brother claimed three medals. This combined with other medal success earned Australia the title of Outstanding Team of the Tournament.
This year’s team combines athletes from six different states, and training sessions have been on a regular basis to help them all get to know each other before the trip to Bangkok. The youngest division at the Worlds is age 10, but these sessions were opened up to even younger athletes to give them a taste of IFMA muaythai-style training.
Anthony Manning, general secretary of the federation says: “Competing at international level is a challenge, it’s a tough challenge and it makes them stronger people. It gives them a good character, and it’s great for them to see what kids all over the world are doing the same thing.”
This team qualified through National Championships which were held in January of this year. The young athletes competed at the same event as those looking to be part of the senior team – a great opportunity for them to see where their muaythai journey could lie. Zoe Putorak represented Australia this year at the World Championships in Mexico, the former Youth champion was part of the senior team and won silver in the 67kgs division.
There is one other unique aspect to the Australian team. They are always accompanied by a giant toy Wombat named Boris Muaythai. During the tournament each athlete takes turns caring for Boris, he is taken to meals and goes to the bouts. Whenever an Australian athlete is in the ring, Boris is there too and he even goes into the ring to congratulate winners.
The only rule is that Boris cannot touch the ground, like a hero in an ancient fairy-tale – he may disappear if he does (or so the coaches say)! Anthony says this gives the children a sense of responsibility in caring for someone, distracts them from nerves about their own bouts and helps to create a sense of team identity.
But why “Boris”? Anthony says: “Boris has been the team mascot since the IFMA world championships in St Petersburg, Russia in 2012. He was named there, hence Boris. He goes to every national and international competition to support the team as a native Australian Bush Animal.”
So with just under three weeks to go to what promises to be the biggest and best Youth World Championships so far, it’s clear Team Australia will be a threat once again and are determined to stake places on the medal podiums.
Follow IFMA on social media to meet all the athletes and get behind-the-scene updates on the action as we count down to August 2nd: