Napier hosts first ever taekwondo world games for people with special needs

The organiser of the first ever Taekwondo Special Needs World Games being held in Napier today says a "tag-along event" for people with special needs doesn't work.

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Over 80 athletes from 10 countries attended the event. Source: Seven Sharp

A total of 86 taekwondo athletes representing 10 countries are descending on the city, and all are gunning for a gold medal.

Taekwondo instructor Ben Evans has taken New Zealand's best to international meets.

But he saw that some opportunities weren't provided for everyone.

"One thing that really got to me at the last one, none of the countries' national anthems were played for the special needs. To me, that really got me," Ben told Seven Sharp.

"Even, like, the medal sizes, the mainstream at the world champs had these big, nice, shiny medals. And the special needs had these tiny little, I don't know how to explain it, but I was just disappointed," he said.

So Ben decided he would take it upon himself to organise the first ever Taekwondo Special Needs World Games.

"You cannot have a tag-along event for special needs. It just won't work. You need to focus on special needs," he said.

Ben needed competitors. And they came, some from afar. 

"Some of them would have never travelled on a plane. Netherlands for example, a lot of them, all of them, have never even travelled on a plane, travelled so far in their whole life." 

Others came from a little closer, like Megan Chu, who's got one thing on her mind.

"I want to bring lots of gold medals instead of silver medals. I got lots of silver medals," she said.

Gold, silver, or bronze, Ben's making one thing certain - the games are going to be big.

"Because of that support we were able to open the door to more special needs, to have an opportunity to compete on the world level," he said.