Sport | Karate

Raukawa Jefferies to become NZ's first karate olympian

Raukawa Jefferies will be the first to represent NZ in karate at any Olympic level, when the martial art makes its debut at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

Jefferies first took up karate as a 6-year-old, but the now 17-year-old has spent the last two years chasing qualification for the Youth Olympics.

"We all started building up to that and going to overseas tournaments, like Croatia and Bulgaria and getting as many points as possible," he says.

Jefferies managed to win enough fights in that time to earn selection as Oceania's only representative.

The Hamilton Boys High School student is no stranger to the winners circle, having made a habit of winning karate tournaments since he was a child.

He says he first won a nationals tournament in the 10-11 year old heavyweight division, and has since gone on to win four more national titles and is a two-time Oceania champion.

Jefferies trains at Hamilton's Waikato Rembuden Karate.

Interestingly, Waikato Rembuden also boasts Chase Hennessey, who is the reserve Oceania representative should Jefferies be unable to attend.

Coach Binh Nguyen says the success of his students is the fulfillment of a promise he made to them years ago.

"When they came to train with me I promised them that if you work hard [you'll] get results one day, and then for 11 years we worked day in, day out."

Their training schedule can be quite robust, with Nguyen saying they often begin at 5.30am.

Jefferies, who combines karate training with basketball and water polo, says his only rest days are Sundays.

A self-described non-morning person, Jefferies says the early starts have been a struggle and he has had to work hard to get himself out of bed but it has "paid off" now.

Jefferies, who earned his black belt as a 13-year-old will compete in the Men's +68kg kumite (fighting) division in Argentina.

With karate set to make its senior Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, Jefferies says to compete there would be nice, but 2024 in Paris is more realistic.

The Youth Olympics will take place in October in Argentina, with karate taking place over the last two days of the competition.