SunLive – Tauranga karateka strikes gold

It’s been a long time coming, almost 30 years in fact. But eventually Mount Maunganui resident and The Breeze breakfast host Mark Eagle reached the peak of his personal Everest and won gold at the 2022 Oceania Karate Championships in New Caledonia.

Her elation on the phone is evident, her voice full of pure joy. It’s no wonder, as it’s a massive achievement on top of battling Covid during the intense training period leading up to the competition.

“I’m so happy after all this time to have won the gold medal,” said Mark, who has been practicing karate for 36 years. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.

“As a child, I loved it. The first time I was part of the New Zealand team was 28 years ago, it was in Tahiti. I was delighted to have been part of the team at that time and even happier to have won a bronze medal there.

He was then only 21 years old.

“Then the following year in 1995, I went to New Caledonia again for Oceania with the New Zealand team and won two bronze medals.”

Mark Eagle won gold at the 2022 Oceania Karate Championships in New Caledonia. Photo: Michel Paul/Photo Action.

This precious gold was still an unrealized aspiration.

“The next time I competed at Oceanias was four years ago in 2018 when they introduced the veterans division and guess what – I won a bronze medal.”

Last year the Oceania Karate Championships were cancelled, due to Covid.

“This year everything was a bit rushed because it was supposed to take place last year but was pushed back to this year. And suddenly the borders have been opened and we can go,” says Mark.

“I got a phone call about six weeks before saying I had been selected, asking me if I wanted to go, and I was like ‘let’s go!'”

He has been with his Auckland coach Duane Monk for over 20 years, usually visiting him in Auckland twice a month before a competition. Duane also comes to Tauranga from time to time, Mark says.

“He’s an amazing trainer. I used to drive three hours each way to get up to Auckland and train with him. But now I train with him on Zoom.

Mark Eagle won gold at the 2022 Oceania Karate Championships in New Caledonia. Photo: Michel Paul/Photo Action.

Mark’s has won the New Zealand national title 10 times in his age category.

“It’s the division for veterans aged 35 and over. As for Oceania, they only introduced the veterans division four years ago.

He had only six weeks notice to peak for the competition and did not take time off work to train.

“I had Covid about six weeks ago and was unable to train for three weeks. I stopped training to improve, but I lost a lot of fitness. It really struck me.

The flight between New Zealand and New Caledonia takes place once a week on Fridays.

“We went to New Caledonia on Friday last week and the tournament started on Sunday and went on until Monday. We had three hours of training the day before in 29 degree heat on Saturday.

A team of around 30 Kiwis also traveled to the tournament. Mark says that in some countries like Iran, Turkey, France and Spain, karate is the second national sport behind football.

“It’s still not that big here even though we have some incredibly talented people. It was an Olympic sport last year and we had someone from New Zealand competing.

Two other Tauranga residents, both from Pāpāmoa, also did well in the competition. Connor Sharp, 15, won bronze and Sam Crawford, 17, won two gold medals.

As his Kiwi team and family watched, Mark seized his moment and gave it his all.

“The gold medal was very elusive. I trained like crazy and I really believed I could do it this time around,” says Mark.

And that’s exactly what he did, 28 years after his first attempt.

“I was incredibly happy. It’s the most incredible feeling to be on the podium holding the New Zealand flag high and hearing the New Zealand anthem.

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