Taekwondo’s Carmen Marton is one of 26 Aussies who have medalled at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa this month.
It’s an exciting prospect of what lies ahead for Australia at Tokyo 2020, but at 33 years of age, if selected, Tokyo will be Marton’s last Games – though her legacy will continue.
Marton became Australia’s first ever taekwondo world champion after she won the women’s lightweight medal at the 2013 World Taekwondo Championships in Puebla, Mexico. She’s competed at 10 World Championship events and represented her country at 3 Olympic Games: Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
After two decades of international competition, she is still putting on golden performances – taking out the -57kg women’s event at the Pacific Games in Samoa and placing her in good stead for her fourth and final Olympic appearance.
“This result is pivotal in getting me to Tokyo. It’s massive in terms of the 40 points that we will now get, which will qualify me for the upcoming Sofia Grand Prix which is another opportunity to score some Olympic qualification points,” Marton said.
The Sydney-sider is competing alongside her partner, Safwan Khalil and her younger brother, Jack, but the family connection runs even deeper, with her father introducing her to the sport and her older sister, Caroline also an Australian taekwondo Olympian.
“Competing alongside my family is such an advantage,” she said.
“When your training sessions are hard, when you need to drop weight or are feeling the pressure of competition, to have that extra moral support from people you’re close to, like a partner or a brother, it’s such a huge asset.
“Things as simple as being there to help each other warm up or stretch, to pulling each other out of those really dark and hard times has been so important.
“There are so many ups and downs, we all have good and bad days, but we just keep pushing each other through this journey together,” Marton continued.
“I feel absolutely blessed and grateful to have that support and it’s the reason I’ve stuck around for so long. It’s such an adventure and to be able to share it with your family and know you’re going to be able to talk about it and look back on it in 10, 20 years-time, is just really beautiful.”
And in a loss for Australia, it won’t just be Marton hanging up her Dobok post-Tokyo, it will be the famous ‘taekwon-duo’ of both herself and Khalil calling time on their Olympic careers.
“There have been so many obstacles and we both love the sport, but it’s hard when you get older because it feels a little bit taboo. I think Safwan felt that pressure, or an obligation to retire earlier. I said to him ‘What are you talking about? If you love it and you want to keep doing it, let’s just go for it’,” she explained.
“In sport, once you stop, that’s it. In comparison to your entire life, your sporting life is such a small part of it. We’re able, we’re healthy, we have the support of our communities and families, so we decided to just go for it [Tokyo].”
Leaving a lasting legacy and acting as a role model for the next generation of female athletes is one of the driving forces for Marton going for one more Games, when others may have considered retirement.
“I am really focused on my legacy and Tokyo 2020 has been a goal of mine since the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics. I’ve had to work so hard, physically and emotionally to get to where I am now and knowing this will be my last Olympics – and with it hopefully being with my partner and brother – I really want to do it for me,” Marton explained.
“Knowing how hard I’ve had to work is what gets me through, knowing this is what I want and that I’ve gone to these absurd lengths to get here, is something really special.
“I feel like I have this responsibility and want to do it for so many reasons. I want to be a role model for females, I want them to be able to take their lives into their own hands and go for these crazy goals.
“I want them to believe in themselves and not let anyone try and stop them,” she continued.
“That’s my legacy and I’m doing it because I love the sport and I have every right to go for my fourth Olympics. I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m going to do it because this is what I want.”
Although her main focus is on making Tokyo 2020, Marton is equally excited for the next generation of Australia’s taekwondo champions.
“I’m stepping into my leadership journey at the moment and everyone has been so open and supportive, I’ve loved it,” Marton said.
“I get really emotional because competing means so much to the young athletes coming through and it makes me so happy for them.
“I’m just so proud and knowing it’s just the start of their journey and seeing them fight with so much passion and so much talent, really makes me tear up. We love doing what we do and sharing it with the community” she shared.
“They’ve got a new energy and they push us with their different styles, with their freshness – and that lifts our standard up. Having young athletes who are so eager and hungry to have this new experience, it just takes you back to the core and the love of this sport.”
Originally published for olympics.com.au