Kickboxers ‘up there’ on world stage

World champions . . . Celebrating with their medal haul are (from left) Will Knight, coach Wayne Knight and Ollie Berry. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED.

Two young Timaru kickboxers had to find some extra space in their luggage after returning home with a healthy new medal collection.

Will Knight, 16, and Ollie Berry, 17, from Knight MMA/ Carlson Gracie South Canterbury, have arrived home after representing New Zealand at the 2024 WKA World Championship in Scotland.

The pair fought within their age groups and weight range and came up against opponents from all around the world across a five-day competition and training period.

Will won a gold medal in the K1 discipline and a bronze in glory rules while Ollie, who fought across several different weight divisions, also won a gold and silver in K1 and two further silvers in glory rules.

Will said when they initially arrived the new environment took a little bit to get used to.

‘‘I’m a bit mixed on meeting new people but I think after a while, when the team started training together, had the weigh-in and then started getting serious, it got a lot better.’’

Ollie also said it was a bit of a tough start.

‘‘The first few days of training you are just trying to see where everyone else is at, just trying to see if you match them, but after a while and when you got to know everyone it was all good.’’

Will and Ollie were the only fighters from the South Island to make the New Zealand squad for the competition which featured more than 600 fighters.

They were joined by their coach Wayne Knight, who was named as part of the New Zealand coaching team and even managed to pick up a gold medal himself in an unopposed coaches’ fight.

Knight said that as a coach he really wanted make sure his two fighters showcased their skills.

‘‘The boys were right up there and they were fighting other boys who had titles and some who had two or three.

‘‘These two will be chasing titles now in New Zealand and seeing how well they did as a coach, I was impressed.’’

Top level . . . Ollie Berry competes at the WKA World Championship in Scotland.

He said it was very interesting to see how his fighters stacked up against the rest of the world.

‘‘We’re little old Timaru and we’re right up there with the best of them.

‘‘Some of these guys were sponsored athletes and the boys definitely were punching with the best of them.

‘‘It was just amazing to watch and be around. We did well as a country and definitely as a wee town. I’m really proud of these guys.

‘‘Every single fight was just as intense as what we get ready for on a Saturday night and to have back-to-back or to have two or three in a weekend, to me as a coach was like, wow, we are at a level where these guys could be looking at King in the Ring one day.’’

Will said competing at such a high level was very beneficial.

‘‘It was good to get our experience up. It was my first time going overseas to compete.

‘‘I wasn’t worried but I was a bit interested to see what the level set with other countries would be, and at the end of the day I don’t think there was anything to worry about. I felt like we did pretty good.’’

Ollie said it was really cool to have achieved what they did on a world stage.

‘‘It opens up so much more for us — it opens up training opportunities and we learnt so much.

‘‘Now that we’ve had that experience we don’t have to worry about anything. It was the same nerves, the same competition.

‘‘If anything, New Zealand is tougher.’’

He also had the surprise honour of being the first individual to fight immediately back-to-back at a WKA event.

‘‘It was a bit of a stitch-up.

‘‘I finished my fight and was assuming there would be another fight in between where I could wait, but nah, I walked from the blue corner to the red corner and another American guy comes in straight away to fight.’’

Knight said he was overwhelmed by the support they had received.

‘‘I want to personally thank absolutely everyone that helped us achieve this goal.

‘‘Everyone that gave to the Givealittle [fundraiser], that came to me privately, all our businesses that helped, you really helped two young lads and an old coach achieve some dreams and further our future visions.’’

He said he could not thank the public enough.

‘‘It’s been a dream come true for me to see these boys put in the world spotlight.’’

The goal for the two young fighters was to keep their fight activity up and start working towards regional and South and North Island titles.

They also have their eye on the next WKA competition in Bali next year and have already begun working to ensure they earn selection.