Kingston University’s Said Khelwatty has returned from the 2011 Commonwealth Taekwondo Championships in Chennai, India with a silver medal despite facing tough competition from some of the world’s top stars.
The 24-year-old was up against competitors from 12 other countries in the Poomsae First Senior category (aged 19-30), and having reached the final six he finished second only to Singapore’s representative.
Said was delighted to pick up the silver medal, especially given the level of competition and the established performers he had to contend with.
He said: “I was competing against some players who were number three or four in the world and they have been competing all their life.
“In terms of the level compared to nationals, there is a big, big difference. All of a sudden you are not the best player in your country. You go there amongst the big boys.”
He added: “Certainly the Commonwealths were the biggest competition that I have been to, and waving the flag after getting the silver medal, my chest was full of pride.”
Despite his success, Said believes that with better preparation he could have gone one step further and taken gold.
He said: “In the finals, sadly I lost to Singapore, but I think that was a lack of training on my part because of my other commitments.
“We were a bit jet lagged as well. The initial plan was to go there at least a week before to get used to the surroundings and the heat, and train a little bit as well. But we just flew in the day before the competition.”
Said’s other commitments include long hours working on his PhD in cancer research, as well as coaching others and training himself.
He said: “Right now I am juggling through teaching Taekwondo at least three days per week, training at least four days per week and then competing. My weekends are totally gone.”
The country’s leading exponent of Poomsae in his age group teaches at London Taekwondo Warriors, which is an affiliate club of the London Taekwondo Academy, and was recently extremely proud to see two of his students receive invitations to compete in the national team.
Khelwatty, currently a Fourth Dan Black Belt, is also keen to encourage as many new people to take up the sport as possible.
He said: “They can come along to our classes anytime…In our class we have everything from white belt to black belt.
Said was chosen to represent Team England at the Commonwealth Championships after finishing sixth and fourth in the two international qualifying events in Finland and Austria and taking gold in last year’s National Championships. So the pressure is on to defend his title at this year’s national finals in March.
He said: “When you don’t have the title then you don’t have anything to lose, but when you do then there is your coach and the national coach and everybody else thinking he must be good and you have that added pressure.”
His ultimate goal though is to win a medal at the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Russia in July, so watch this space.