European Champion Walkden Looking For New Year Cheer In Come Back Tournament
European champion Bianca Walkden admits to an emotional cocktail of excitement and nervousness on her return to action at this weekend’s Greek Open in Salonika.
The 21-year-old Liverpudlian has been sidelined since rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament at the WTF World Grand Prix in China last July.
It’s the second time in her career Walkden has had to battle back from serious injury. So, the Manchester trained former world number two hopes for a mishap free 2015 as she chases selection for this year’s World Championship and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I am excited but I am nervous too with it being my first tournament back after a major operation,” admits Walkden, despite her youthfulness, the most experienced member of the seven strong squad in action tomorrow. (Saturday).
“It’s step by step now really up until the World Championships (in May). I can’t put a lot of pressure on myself but I am going to try and do everything I can to do well.
“I was devastated to miss six months of an important year especially as every point matters. But I am glad I missed out then and not now.
“I have had one sparring session but I am really treating this tournament as an extra training session.
“I will be devastated if I don’t win but I can accept it a little bit more if I don’t.
“I have a long path to go with it and I am getting there slowly. But it is a big 12 months because I have got to try and qualify for Rio.”
Walkden suffered her knee injury during the Grand Prix semi-final against home favourite, Shuyin Zheng.
“I knew straight away what had happened,” she agreed. “And because I had done it before. I just carried on. I probably fought on for another round and a half.
“I have got no knees now,” she laughed. “Rehabilitation was a little easier because I knew what to expect in rehab but it was like ‘why me again?’”
Walkden’s team mates in Greece include newly crowned Commonwealth champion, Jade Slavin, 2014 European Championship bronze medallist, Georgia Barnes plus Josh Calland, one of the most recent additions to the GB Academy in Manchester.
*London 2012 bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, is part of a formidable seven strong team making their first appearances of 2015 at the US Open from January 20-25.
All weight categories on Saturday, January 17.
-54kg: Josh Calland (Liverpool)
-68kg: Ben Haines (Portsmouth), Tony Stephenson (Bury)
-49kg: Georgia Barnes (Southampton)
-57kg: Nicole Huntington (Ipswich)
-73kg: Jade Slavin (Consett)
+73kg: Bianca Walkden (Liverpool)