A 12-year-old Mataura boy’s dreams of becoming a world-champion kickboxer are well on their way to being fulfilled.
Levi Smith has been chosen as a member of the New Zealand team to compete in the World Association of Kickboxing Organisations’ International World Championships in Venice, Italy in September.
As part of the Menzies College pupil’s preparation for the competition, he is undertaking training in Auckland with coach Carl van Roon during the school holidays.
There are eight competitors in the New Zealand team.
He has been selected to compete in the 32kg light contact division.
This is not the Kickboxing Mataura member’s first taste of international competition: he competed in the Junior World Kickboxing Championships in Dublin in 2016 as a 9-year-old.
He had also taken part in the Arnold Classic in Melbourne, where he won gold, silver and bronze, and the Eagle Cup in New Zealand, where he bagged a gold and three silver medals last month.
Levi was no stranger to hard work, discipline and setting goals, including one for the Italian-based competition.
“To try my hardest and even if I do lose, I will come back better,” Levi said.
But he did hope to “medal”, he said.
He has his eyes set on his ultimate goal: becoming world champion.
In Auckland he was concentrating on his kicks and making sure his legs were more active during competition, he said.
While he admitted to getting nervous during top-level competition, he said he meditated, and that helped him to become calm.
Coach Peter Thompson, of Invercargill, said Levi had a strong character and a willingness to take instruction on board and turn it to his advantage when competing that was usually seen in much older competitors.
Mr van Roon said the 12-year-old was a formidable young prospect in the world of competitive martial arts.
“It’s very rare that I see his combination of raw talent, intelligence and work ethic,” he said.
“Usually you get one or two in an individual but not all three.
“He has a great future.”
Levi’s mother, Turiana Smith, also hugely contributed to her son’s success by being extremely supportive, Mr Thompson said.
Being exposed to international competition at a young age had also helped Levi willingly take instruction and develop a thirst to become better at his sport, he said.
Ms Smith said her son started in the sport when he was 9.
When it was suggested her sons try kickboxing, she never dreamed Levi would become so immersed in the sport.
“He went along and never stopped; he just got better and better. He absolutely loves it,” Ms Smith said.
“He never misses a training.”
Levi had learned he had to work hard not only at becoming proficient in the sport, but also when it came to fundraising for the trip. It cost between $5000 to $6000 to attend the world competition, and Ms Smith is accompanying her son.
The family were working at raising the money to attend: they had a Givealittle page and were hosting barbecues at The Warehouse in Gore, selling raffles, and holding a quiz night at the Mataura RSA on Monday night at 7pm.
Businesses had come on board and donated goods for raffles and prizes.
The Mataura Licensing Trust had given a $1000 grant.
Mataura Community Development co-ordinator Eleanor Ranstead, who is helping with fundraising, said the family were very motivated and all worked together.