Thu, Nov 11, 2021 6:28 AM
Taekwondo instructor and Nelson Sports Awards nominee Hamish Wybrow with his students. Photo: Jonty Dine
With a competitive taekwondo record of 170-4, Hamish Wybrow knows how to win a fight.
However, as a coach, the result comes second to seeing his students thrive.
“Years ago, it was all about winning but now it’s watching their faces and seeing what they get out of competing.”
For some, simply walking out to the centre ring is a huge victory.
“I have taken some students to international events and won gold medals but for some I’m happy for them just to enter.”
After a fiercely competitive fighting career, Hamish now simply encourages young people to have a go.
Hamish’s significant influence on countless students has seen him nominated for the Rātā Foundation’s Lifetime Contribution to Sport for the 2021 Nelson Sports Awards.
The 51-year-old was taken back by the news.
“I thought ‘wow,’ but was very pleased.”
Hamish’s martial arts journey began as a five-year-old through judo and then karate classes.
Inspired by action movie hero Bruce Lee, Hamish then discovered taekwondo.
“It’s like with all sports, you just find what suits you. Whether you’re tall or short, like to fight on the ground or standing up. I like to kick, so stuck at that style.”
Hamish received his black belt Waimea College Gymnasium at 15 with his first major title win coming in 1988 at South Island Championships.
He went on to face the national champion later that year, losing the fight but getting his revenge the following year in what would become a trend for Hamish.
Hamish’s career saw him represent New Zealand for 12 years, accruing 11 national black belt titles.
“It’s been a long time in the sport but it’s something I enjoy and that’s why I like to give back.”
Among his many career highlights was winning the Oceania Championships in 1999 and coming third at a Korean tournament with 80 competing countries.
Hamish fought six times on his way to the semifinals, breaking his arm in the first and finger in the final bout.
Another moment that stands out for Hamish was when he received a rapturous applause for his display of discipline and respect.
Fighting as a 29-year-old against someone ten years his junior, Hamish was comfortably ahead on points and looked set to end the contest.
“I could’ve knocked him out, but I didn’t need to, so I stopped my foot, and the crowd gave me a standing ovation. It was just one of those split-second decisions.”
As well as a taekwondo master, Hamish is also Richmond’s School community officer.
His skills as a martial artist translate nicely into his work teaching children about safety while his time in the classroom helps improve his teaching ability.
“It is a great job, I learn a lot from the teachers and kids and vice versa.”
Hamish says he takes great pride in seeing shy and reserved children come to his classes and grow in confidence.
The former New Zealand champion says he has met a number of interesting and inspirational people during his four decades in the sport.
“It’s like having an extended family.”
The Nelson Sports Awards will be announced via live stream on December 3.