By Casey Neill
Martial arts student will be fighting for his country…
A Springvale student will fight for Australia at a karate competition in Ireland.
Omar Selmanovic, 17, is in Year 11 at Minaret College.
“I initially played soccer,” he said.
“After the season ended I was looking for something to do and I had a friend who did karate.
“I joined when I was about eight. I haven’t looked back.”
He said that it was his dad’s encouragement that kept him in karate initially.
“But when you get to go to competitions you meet people and have fun competing,” he said.
“It taught me discipline as well.
“Without hard work you weren’t going to go anywhere.”
Omar was handpicked at regional try-outs for a national competition where he placed in the top four in his age group.
“Everybody’s good friends, but on the mat, in the ring, you forget about the friendships and stuff,” he said.
“You’ve got a job to do.
“Afterwards it’s all handshakes, it’s all smiles – maybe a black eye or a bloody nose.”
The International Karate Union World Championships will take place in Ireland on 19, 20 and 21 August.
“I think it’s all over one day for us juniors, so we’re going to have multiple times on the mat in one day,” he said.
“I’ll be fighting in the 16 to 18 years age group.
“The aim really isn’t to bash your opponent. You just have to land two clean punches to win the match.
“They have to be full contact. The chances of winning and losing… if you get hit twice, you’re out.
“The pressure’s on, you can’t just stand there.
“It’s a two-minute match so you’ve got to get it done quickly.
“You’ve got to take the initiative most of the time. A match could finish in 30 seconds. You never really know what’s going to happen.
“There’ll also be kata. It’s like a set for of movements that you get judged on. You perform it on the mat.”
Omar has represented Australia twice before, at age 11 and 14.
“I didn’t really push myself as much as I would now,” he said.
“I’ve been training for about two hours every day.”
There’s no prize money up for grabs and he’s had to fund-raise to pay for his trip.
But it will likely be his last tilt at the junior competition.
“During Year 12 I won’t be able to devote as much time to the sport,” he said.
“I’ll have to ease up.”