“Girls can’t do Muaythai? Rubbish!” says 13-year-old Crystal Cook, scoffing at the suggestion that some might consider it a “boy’s sport”. “Girls have every right to do Muaythai. It is a highly skilled sport that females are excelling at worldwide. Gone are the days of just netball for girls. Why can’t girls do it? In fact, we are doing it, and doing really well.”

Crystal certainly is – she was a gold medalist at the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) Junior Championships as well as the IFMA Junior Athlete of the Year in 2015. She is every bit the proud, confident individual that such distinctions would suggest; however, things have not always been easy for her.

Crystal was born with fetal alcohol and drug syndrome from her biological mother and diagnosed with severe dyslexia and ADHD. She was severely bullied in school and excluded from social activities by peers.


Wanting to help, Crystal’s foster mother, Christine, took her to “SMAC Gym”, run by multiple-time world champion, New Zealand Muaythai federation president Victoria (Tori) Nansen and New Zealand National Coach and Muaythai Champion Francis Vesetolu.

Tori has since become a second surrogate mother to Crystal, believing in her and encouraging her from the first day she entered the gym.

Read more at http://www.unescobkk.org/news/article/muaythais-maximum-impact-in-young-new-zealanders-life/