FOR Dale Bryce and his team at Eclipse Taekwondo, the recent NSW state championships had been an event they'd all been working towards for close to 18 months - with COVID-19 cancelling all competitions in 2020.
Bryce and his 11-strong squad dominated the Sunday, April 11 event at the Blacktown Leisure Centre, by bringing home 15 medals to the Shoalhaven.
"As this was the first competition in almost 18 months due to COVID, there were no qualification stipulations, seeing close to 1000 athletes come from all over Australia to compete," Eclipse Taekwondo head instructor Bryce said.
"With the Australian team selections being held in Sydney the day before, for the upcoming world championships, this brought clubs into Sydney for that black belt only selection event.
"So a lot of clubs from interstate also brought teams to contest the NSW state titles making it an extremely high-level event with everyone hungry for competition.
"Despite that, we tasted great success at this high-level event with most of our competitors having never competed before outside of our own club.
"We were nervous but also quietly confident they would all do extremely well as they have been training exceptionally hard for the titles and we have some of the most exciting talent we have ever seen come through the club.
"With head coach Tim Parkes and I having both competed for many years at state, national and international level, we know what competition is all about and we knew we had a strong team leading into the state titles.
"It was nice to see them all step up to the challenge and excel with everyone that competed bringing how at least one medal each."
The medal winners from the South Nowra-based club were Carter Turner (gold and silver), George Economos (gold and bronze), Tanya Chapman (gold), Joseph Petts (gold), Alexander Economos (two silvers), Kaydence Newbold (silver and bronze), Ace Weissel (silver), Oliver Walsh (silver), Leo Weissel (silver), Connor Poelzl (bronze) and Beau Walsh (bronze).
"They all did exceptionally well and really stepped up to the plate on the day and gave it their all," Bryce said.
"Beau Walsh had an absolute blinder in one of his fights on the way to the semi-final. He won one fight with an epic score of 33-12, which was stopped at the end of the second round due to the excessive point gap.
"We have always done well as a club at state and national level events and it's great to see our new team following in the footsteps of past Eclipse members that have competed and represented the club and the area at high-level events.
"We look forward to the next state event which will be held in August as this will be the state team selections for the NSW team that will contest the national championships, set to be held in Sydney in October.
"Both Tim and I have high hopes for our competition team at both the state team selections and upcoming nationals.
"Everyone has come back with fire in the bellies and they are all training really hard in preparation."
Before the team returns to the competitive arena in August, Parkes will pull on the green and gold and represent Australia at this month's Oceania Championships.
"Tim has qualified for the Australian team that will contest this online event as he won a selection event that was held in Perth pre-COVID that was supposed to go to the world championships," Bryce said.
"However, this was cancelled due to COVID-19 and he has now been given this opportunity with the online Oceania Championships.
"He will represent Australia in the Freestyle Poomsae division, which is a combination of traditional patterns with an acrobatic/tricking style twist to it.
"For those who are familiar with the world of tricking, they will know how spectacular this event will be, as the Taekwondo Korean Tigers are world-renowned in the martial arts circles.
"This event will see national teams put up their best athlete from each nation to battle it out virtually in this online event.
"Tim is training hard to hone his techniques and land his tricks clean, as it is judged similar to the likes of a gymnastics routine with a martial arts twist.
"He is extremely talented in martial arts tricking and has a strong technical base in Taekwondo as well.
"He is a well rounded martial artist and I know he will be right up there in the mix at the top - I feel he is a good chance at bringing home a medal for Australia at this event."
Other events on the radar for Bryce are the Pan Pacific Masters Games and the Gold Coat in November and the World Masters in 2022.
He also admits the club is also in the early stages of planning a revamped South Coast Open.
"We haven't run for a few years but will again be bringing this event back to the Shoalhaven in 2022," he said.
"These events saw in excess of 1000 people come into the Shoalhaven from around the country.
"With people in the Taekwondo community hungry for competition and also wanting to holiday in the Shoalhaven, what better way to capitalise on this and start holding our ever successful South Coast Open Championships here in the Shoalhaven once again in early 2022 - so stay tuned for this one as it is set to be a great event."
The reintroduction of this prestigious event highlights how far the club, based at unit three - number four Browns Road, South Nowra, has come since its reestablishment last year.
"Eclipse Taekwondo has been in the Shoalhaven for more than 40 years through different names, from the original Shoalhaven Taekwondo to Berry Taekwondo to the now known Eclipse Taekwondo," Bryce said.
"Following some major health concerns of my own with faulty implants following bilateral hip replacement surgery not once but twice, I was unfortunately forced to shut the club down for close to five years.
"In this time, I transitioned into bodybuilding as I rebuilt my body literally from the ground up.
"I have been competing over the last few years in bodybuilding and did quite well at the state titles last weekend where I won one gold, two silver and one bronze medal for fifth overall - qualifying me for nationals in Sydney this weekend.
"This training helped me reopened Eclipse in July last year.
"And despite being in the midst of COVID-19, Eclipse exploded back into the Shoalhaven where we now have more than 120 members at the South Nowra facility and growing every week."
If you'd like to get involved in the club, with purpose-based facilities and classes for ages three years and up from 4pm Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, please contact Bryce (0418 488 016) and or Parkes (0435 288 475).
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