TESTING WEEKEND AHEAD FOR GB STARS
GB Taekwondo has named a six strong squad for this weekend's Olympic Test event, including British Open champion Aaron Cook.
But with one eye on next month's French Open a number of Britain's leading players, including four World Championship medallists, won't compete at ExCel.
Indeed, Rio 2016 rather than the 2012 Games is the main target for some of the Test team.
However, GB Performance Director Gary Hall is determined to maximise this first chance to become acquainted with a venue which he hopes will prove a happy medal hunting ground next August.
"This event (December 3-4) provides a chance for our Performance staff and athletes to familiarise themselves with the competition format and structure," agrees Hall.
"It also gives us an opportunity to get to know the venue and how it will operate.
"We want to ensure we are the best prepared team at London 2012.
"And this weekend affords us that chance. Any performances in the ring will be a bonus."
Certainly the staging of the French Open (December 10/11) makes it difficult for two peaks in performance in such a short time frame.
"It is a selection event for GB players," confirmed Hall. "I can understand some athletes want to prioritise Paris if it means they get to compete at the ExCel next summer when it really counts."
Cook will certainly grab the spotlight in his first outing under the GB umbrella since quitting the Manchester based Academy last June.
"Aaron wants to gain the same experience as everyone else and that includes working with our coaches again," added Hall.
"And the rules and regulations regarding Olympic selection next year are the same for him as everyone else."
Londoner Lutalo Muhammad returns home to contest the -80kg division, one of only two of Britain's Olympic weight classes being contested.
"We're delighted to be able to give Lutalo some ‘ring time’ and also that Aaron has chosen to compete at the event on the back of his British Open victory," explained Hall.
"It’s also a great opportunity for us to see some of our emerging talent compete against some of the world’s leading players."
However, Sophie Threlfall from Leeds, who celebrated her 21st birthday earlier this month and National gold medallist Stella Whitehead have competed for GB at senior level in the past.
Josh Webley, 20, is a European Under 21 Championship and Commonwealth bronze medallist while Julian Marton, another London born propsect, makes a first senior Great Britain appearance. Julian's twin sister, Judy, has been named as reserve for the squad.
-68kg (Saturday): Julian Marton (Brent, London) Josh Webley (Greenford, Middlesex)
-80kg (Sunday): Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow, London), Aaron Cook (Dorchester).
-49kg (Saturday): Sophie Threlfall (Leeds)
+67kg (Sunday): Stella Whitehead (Doncaster)
Reserve: Judy Marton (-49kg)