OMENS LOOKING GOOD FOR DAMON
Damon Sansum knows it's now or never to push himself forward as a contender for this summer's Olympic Games.
But confident Sansum is optimistic he can rise to the occasion starting at this weekend's prestigious German Open in Hamburg.
All of GB Taekwondo's London 2012 hopefuls are included in a 14-strong squad with the exception of injured world champion, Sarah Stevenson.
Unlike experienced Stevenson, Sansum remains a relative newcomer to WTF taekwondo. The former world kick boxing champion joined the Manchester based GB Academy as part of the successful 'Fighting Chance' initiative.
Indeed, a new UK Sport scheme, Power2Podium, has been launched to unearth potential competitors for Rio 2016 and beyond.
But that's for the next Olympic cycle and Sansum, 25, hopes to deliver before the GB team is announced at the end of May. And he's got three last opportunities to catch the selectors' eyes: in Hamburg, at the Dutch Open and the European Championships in Manchester from May 3-6.
"I am continually learning because I am new to the sport," explained the Elgin based star.
"But my technique is coming together now and I feel I understand the taekwondo game a lot better. I am probably feeling the best I have done since coming to the Academy.
"It took a while to adjust to some of the kicks I wasn't used to. I found it hard to pick up some of the techniques.
"But I have transferred to the actual combat side of the sport better than I thought. I have achieved things greater than I imagined," explained the 2011 US Open bronze medallist.
Sansum, who missed last season's German Open through injury, is in action for the first time since the French Open last December. And he hopes for better good fortune in Hamburg than he received during his second round exit in Paris
"I narrowly lost to the guy (Mamedy Doucara) who went on to win the gold medal," he explained. "And I hit him with two clean head shots and didn't get the points.
"I am not a massive believer in making excuses after I have lost but I definitely felt I won that fight."
Sansum is one of five GB trained players in action at -80kg. They will be joined by Aaron Cook, fresh from his recent US Open victory,
Liverpudlian Martin Stamper returns to defend his -68kg title. And his chances of retaining his crown have been boosted by 2011 runner-up, Servet Tazegul's decision to compete in the -74kg division.
Jade Jones, beaten by Croatia's Ana Zaninovic in last year's final, is on a collision course to clash with China's world champion, Hou Yuzhuo in the -57kg category.
GB Performance Director Gary Hall is excited by the prospects for his squad.
"The team unity and spirit is really strong," he said. "I am expecting some great performances to come from the team because everyone has done a good job.
"The German Open is one of the strongest Open competitions. It is a tournament with a depth of quality and quantity.
"It doesn't provide the exact same challenge as the Olympics. But it is a challenge and so the team must raise its game.
"Every single one of the athletes is looking forward to competing."
However, Hall will hope to avoid more serious injuries after Stevenson's cruciate ligament problem during a recent Mexican training camp.
"In sport you never know what might come along and you can't legislate for injuries," he admits.
"Everyone is conscious of the risks they take in a full combat, contact sport. You cannot hide from that."
On Stevenson's rehabilitation he adds: "Sarah is a credit to herself the way she is coping with this injury.
"It's not been easy but the whole team behind her and working hard. She is going as well as to be expected, if not slightly better.
"She is in a buoyant, confident mood and going in the right direction."
*Britain has named a seven strong squad for the World Junior Championships in Sharm El Sheikh (April 4-8), including recent European Junior Championship medallists, Jamie Abley and Beth Worthington.
The team is: Jamie Abley (-59kg), Amin Badr (-55kg), Asia Bailey (-42kg), Jack Herring (-63kg), George Lee (-68kg), Feyi Pearce (-51kg) and Beth Worthington (-44kg).
Tickets are now on sale for the 2012 European Championships at Sportcity, Manchester. Priced at 311 adult, £6 children (under 16), £28 for family ticket (2 adults and 2 children), they can be booked via 0844 844 0444 or from www.ticketmaster.co.uk
GERMAN OPEN - TEAM/SCHEDULE
Saturday (March 2)
-59kg: Jamie Abley (Spennymoor)
-68 kg: George Lee (Lewisham)
-68kg: Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Tony Grisman (Mansfield), Michael Harvey (Manchester), Martin Stamper (Liverpool).
-80kg: Craig Brown (Peckham), Andrew Deer (Tamworth), Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow), Ruebyn Richards (Nottingham), Damon Sansum (Elgin).
Sunday (March 3)
-55 kg: Amin Badr (Brixton)
-57 kg: Jade Jones (Bodelwyddan)
+73 kg: Bianca Walkden (Liverpool).