GB TAEKWONDO NAME FAB FOUR FOR RIO OLYMPICS
Olympic champion Jade Jones will spearhead Team GB’s bid for a record breaking haul of Olympic Games taekwondo medals in Rio this summer.
Jones captured Great Britain’s first ever Olympic taekwondo gold medal four years ago in London while Lutalo Muhammad became the country’s first male medallist with bronze at -80kg.
Flint born Jones, 23, and Londoner Muhammad, are joined at their second Olympics by Games newcomers, Mahama Cho and Bianca Walkden.
Cho, also from London, will fight at +80kg while fellow heavyweight and reigning world champion, Walkden, will contest the +67kg class in Brazil.
Jones, who recently became European champion for the first time in her Olympic winning weight division of -57kg, said: “It’s a great honour to be picked to fight for Team GB at Rio 2016 and gives you a sense of pride.
“To be chosen for my first Olympics was great and now to be selected again, it’s unbelievable. Overall, my preparation for the Games has gone really well, things have come together just at the right time.
“I had success at the Europeans and I felt really strong in my performance and I’ve definitely improved in my game.
“I’m going to Rio for gold and my best chance of winning is by being calm beforehand, I’ll literally be leaving everything on the mat so that regardless of the result, I can come out of the ring and know I have given it my all.
“Every sports person has a competition that they look forward to being the best in and for me the Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport. It makes me hungrier and determined to succeed.
“The support I received in London 2012 was phenomenal, there were thousands of people screaming my name as I fought. The atmosphere was amazing. This time around, my family are coming out to give me that extra boost and hopefully they can motivate me in the same way!
Muhammad, the reigning World Taekwondo Federation overall World Grand Prix champion, is fresh and raring to go in Rio.
“My road to Rio has been quite challenging as I have had a few injuries along the way,” he says. “However, with the help of our support team, I’m now at a stage where I can focus on doing what I do best.
“I’m determined to be the best prepared I can be, so that I can give the best performance I can in August.
“The buzz in the lead up to London 2012 was out of this world and the support we received was fantastic.
“At the moment, we’re working on some exciting things every single day in training, new challenges performance wise, so I’m looking forward to putting them into practice in the ring. The end goal always remains the same – to win gold.
“I’ve dreamed of winning an Olympic medal ever since I watched Sydney 2000,” says the 25-year-old from Walthamstow. “Rio 2016, in particular, means a lot as me and my dad worked out that this would be when I would be at my prime and ready to take my gold. In hindsight London 2012 was a bonus for me.”
Injury robbed Walkden, 24, of potential Olympic selection in 2012 but she has fought back in brilliant style, especially in 2016 where she remains unbeaten.
“I can’t wait to get out there now and take the chance to live my dream,” says Walkden, also a recently crowned European champion.
“My journey to Rio 2016 has been a rollercoaster because I ruptured my ACL and then had to make a return back from injury in order to qualify – which has been a tough process within itself, so it’s amazing to have been selected.
“As a team, we’re going for gold at Rio 2016 and in order to achieve that I’ll have to take each fight one step at a time and stay composed during every match. There’s no point adding extra pressure on myself.
“Winning at Rio is everything, for me to go out there and achieve my goal will mean that I have all of my boxes ticked – I would be European, World and Olympic Champion, all at the same time.”
Cho secured a heavyweight place for Team GB in Rio by winning the European Olympic qualifying tournament in Turkey back in January. He is the ‘senior’ member of the four-strong Manchester trained team and will celebrate his 27th birthday the day before the Olympic taekwondo competition starts.
“Being selected to compete for Team GB is great,” he confirmed. “I have had four years of preparations, dedication and commitment in order to achieve this, so it’s definitely something worth celebrating.
“As with any path to success, there will always be tribulations and this year’s challenges have been brilliant for me because it means that there’s always something for me to improve and work on preparation wise.
“I’m working on being stronger, faster and fitter for the Games, I definitely feel like I’m in a good place mentally.
“Getting a gold in Rio will be the cherry on top of the cake for me, I’ve envisioned this since I was a child, it’s something I know I’ll be telling everyone I know for years to come.
“The Olympics represents the world’s best competing under one roof, so to be chosen to represent my country – nothing can beat that feeling! I am truly blessed to have my name thrown into the mix.”
Gary Hall, GB Taekwondo Performance Director said:” I am delighted to announce the four athletes that have been selected to compete for Team GB at Rio 2016.
“The team will attempt to surpass the level of success as was achieved in London 2012, they are focused, experienced and are working extremely hard (as are the coaching and support team behind them) to be at their very best come the Rio Olympics Taekwondo Games.
“We have reigning European and Olympic Champion, Jade Jones and World Grand Prix Champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, both of whom will be making their second appearances at an Olympic Games, with the additions of the World and European Champion, Bianca Walkden and European Qualification Tournament Gold Medallist Mahama Cho.
“I would also like to thank UK Sport and The National Lottery for their continued support of Taekwondo during the last four years which will allow our athletes to be the best prepared as they can be for Rio 2016 along with the help of our dedicated coaching and support staff.”
Teenager Lauren Williams, the 2014 World Junior champion, is one of four reserves named by Team GB for Rio.
The 17-year-old from Blackwood, Gwent only made her senior debut earlier this year, is the reigning European champion and recently added the Greek Open title to her Dutch Open success.
Williams will understudy world champion Walkden at +67kg while Wigan’s Rachelle Booth, a world championship bronze medallist in 2015, has been selected as Jones’ deputy at -57kg.
In the men’s weights, Damon Sansum, a 2015 world championship silver medallist, is named as substitute for Muhammad while Scot Lyle Walker, 20, will deputise for Cho in case of injury or illness. The four will travel to Brazil and train with their team mates in the lead up to the Games.