This will be the biggest team NZ has ever sent to the World championships and definitely the biggest junior team. With 35 + athletes and over 40 supporters traveling to Bangkok, mostly mums and dads who have put in countless hours to support their children as they train and prepare for the championships. This year’s team will also boast the largest female athlete delegation in the history of Team NZ!
The team has had 4 nation-wide camps over the last 6 months with mini regional training sessions in between. This year NZ wants to ensure they come as a unified team and know each other no matter which end of the country they are from. Their collective goal is to be able to give their juniors the best support possible as they head off on an adventure that they hope will demonstrate to the world the huge wave of juniors NZ has been nurturing.
IFMA world championship veteran Ashleigh Ahipene, who at only 23 years old has attended the last 5 world championships. She has won bronze at the ARAFURA games and also a silver medal when she first competed in the junior league herself. This year Ashleigh will be a name to watch as she takes to the ring for her 6th IFMA championship. She is also the Athlete’s Commission representative for NZ and is happy to pass her experience on to her fellow athletes. Daughter of the NZ team coach from 2006 – 2013 Ben Ahipene, Ashleigh has been wearing gloves from before she could walk.
New Zealand’s coach Francis Vesetolu has the added experience of competing at the worlds himself and is now leading his own team with a number of assistant coaches. This will be Francis’s second championship as Head Coach. He has worked hard over the last 15 months to create a unified junior-strong team. Francis believes that our sports future is grounded in our youth and is very active along with the NZ President Victoria Nansen in ensuring the NZ has developed and will continue to develop a strong, safe and nurturing pathway for their junior athletes. One of the jobs of the senior fighters is to also help mentor the juniors, in NZ Muaythai is its own special whanau, family.