PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR HALL CONFIDENT IN TEAM’S CAPABILITIES
Gary Hall saw Great Britain’s Taekwondo stars make history at London 2012 with a first ever Olympic gold medal for the sport and a best ever two medal haul.
Now the challenge for Hall, GB Taekwondo’s long serving Performance Director, and Team GB’s squad of four is too raise the bar even higher.
And with his London aces, defending champion, Jade Jones, and bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, selected for a second Games, Hall, attending his fourth Olympics, is optimistic Britain can attain its one to three medal target.
The pair are joined by World and European champion, Bianca Walkden, and European Olympic qualification tournament winner, Mahama Cho, prompting Hall to declare: “It is the strongest squad we have sent from these shores.”
The fab four are still two weeks from competition with Jones opening proceedings on August 18.
And Hall says:”The focus for us is to be the best prepared squad and the least distracted.
“If we get that right, then every single one of them is capable of winning gold.
“You can’t forecast what the opposition is going to do. But what we can do is take care of our own preparation.
“Our target is one to three medals and we have got the squad to achieve that. It is realistic,” stresses Hall.
“They know what it takes to prepare for a Games like this; they know what the performance they have got to deliver is like and they have worked intensely hard.
“The preparation has been world class. We have had a replica Rio stage erected in the gym while China, Cuba, Norway, Jordan and South Korea all came to Manchester for Test matches.
“It is all about getting the basics right and then adding the marginals. These guys do that extremely well.”
Taekwondo was only introduced as a medal sport at Sydney 2000 when former world champion, Sarah Stevenson, was one of two British competitors.
Slowly but surely the South Korean originated martial art has grown in popularity and success.
“Without the investment of UK Sport we wouldn’t be anywhere,” says Hall. “Ten years ago people couldn’t say the word Taekwondo never mind give us money. Now we have world class coaches supporting world class athletes.
“We started off very small –just £5,000 a year- and now its £2 million a year. It is a success story but I think the principles in investment have been right.
“But we have returned back for that investment and every time we have returned back we have received slightly more money.
“We have some tremendous athletes in taekwondo. Now we have got one of the world’s best systems.
“If you marry the two up along with the coaching team, the support team and the athletes it is going to go on for a long time yet, underpinned by a Talent Pathway that we are developing with the backing of Sport England.”