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Afonczenko eyes Rio and Tokyo

15 July 2015

PACIFIC GAMES: Like every young kid Thomas Afonczenko always wanted to learn cool tricks to show off to his friends at school.
 
So at the age of nine when a friend convinced him he could learn acrobatic stunts by taking up taekwondo, Afonczenko jumped at the chance.
 
“My friend did it and he told me that at taekwondo you could do backflips off the wall, all this awesome stuff,” he said.
 
“I was good at it so I kept going, I’ve never got to do that backflip!”
 
Now 21-years-old, Afonczenko is part of a 13-person strong Australian taekwondo Team at the Pacific Games.
 
With world ranking points on the line, the Victorian said the tournament is incredibly important if he's to have a chance of gaining Olympic selection.
 
“Because this is a continental tournament it holds a lot of points," he said.
 
"Usually at a tournament we’re competing for 10-20 points. But the Pacific Games is 40 points, so it’s a lot up for grabs.”
 
Afonczenko kicked off his Games campaign with a training session with four teammates on Tuesday afternoon.
 
He said it was good to get the muscles moving after spending the last week in Korea at the World University Games.
 
“It’s been a long journey, around 28 hours to get to Papua New Guinea. I felt tight when I got off the plane, so it’s been good to have a good stretch at training.
 
“I’m also used to training with some of the other boys, Jack Marton and Thomas Auger so it’s familiar.”
 
Competing in the under 68kg division, he said the Pacific competition will be tough.
 
“It’ll be very physical a lot of these countries are very strong, I don’t know a lot of the opponents but no doubt it’ll be very physical.”
 
Like most of his team, the Victorian has his sights set on the Rio Olympics.
 
“If I can win my division it’ll put me in a good position for Rio, or maybe even Tokyo 2020 after that,” he said.
 
Afonczenko will compete on Friday 17 July.
 
Annie Kearney
olympics.com.au

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