Brilliant Brits Earn Stripes At US Open
Damon Sansum and Lutalo Muhammad laid down their statements of intent for 2015 by marking their first appearances of the new year with victories at the US Open in Orlando.
And with heavyweight, Mahama Cho, winning silver at the Orange Convention Centre, it was a great start to the tournament for the seven strong Great Britain squad.
The only disappointment was an injury to Ruebyn Richards that forced his withdrawal from the -68kg weight division.
Otherwise, it was smiles all the way, especially for Sansum at -80kg and London 2012 bronze medallist, Muhammad, opting to move up a weight for this event to -87kg.
A late head kick earned Sansum, 27, a 4-3 final win over Armenia’s Armen Yeremyan after a memorable semi-final victory over American’s double Olympic champion and WTF taekwondo legend, Steven Lopez. Yeremyan put out Aaron Cook, who took bronze, 13-12 in the semi-finals.
“I am delighted with the result,” said Sansum. “I have worked really hard over the past few weeks to address areas for improvement.
“Work on finding marginal gains will hopefully make the difference between losing and winning at top level taekwondo.
“Last year was good for me but this year is about ironing out any errors, improving strengths and developing weakness to give me the best possible chance to go to Rio.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year and I’m privileged to have such a good team behind me, including my coach Steve Jennings and psychologist, Robbie.”
Muhammad, 23, didn’t enjoy the best of results in 2014 but he is determined to be challenging for Rio at the end of a massive year for the Manchester trained squad.
“It’s brilliant to start 2015 with a bang,” said the ‘Walthamstow Warrior’ after Tunisian born, German opponent, Yassine Trabelsi, was disqualified in the final round after amassing a maximum 10 ‘kyong-go’ warnings, with the scores at 11-all. “Five hard fights but great coaches to see me through it.”
Cho, 25, made it three British finalists after Brazilian Guilherme Felix retired in the semi-final with his opponent 3-0 to the good. The final against Nigerian Abdoula Issoufou Alfaga was a close affair and after three nip and tuck rounds, Cho slipped to a 7-6 defeat.
Friday saw further British success with medals for GB Cadets Shayanne Sarsoza of Kixstar club, who took gold, and Jamie Simpson-Kidd of Horizon.
The successes follow on from last weekend’s Greek Open when British fighters won four medals including gold for Tony Stephenson.
Saturday sees Martin Stamper and Christian McNeish in action in the -68kg category, with Jordan Gayle competing at -63kg.