GB World Grand Prix Stars Aiming For Mexican Hat Trick To End Year On High
After the most gruelling year of their careers three GB Taekwondo stars now face their biggest test of 2014 at the World Grand Prix series finals in Queretaro, Mexico. (December 3-4)
Olympic champion, Jade Jones, London 2012 bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, and three-time WGP medallist, Mahama Cho, are included in arguably the highest quality line-up since the London Games.
While stakes are high for the world’s top eight fighters across eight Olympic weight categories so too the rewards. In addition to medals, titles and a $6,000 first prize to each of the eight champions, there are vital points towards qualification for Rio 2016.
‘Headhunter’ Jones has yet to win a Grand Prix title, losing three finals to Spain’s statuesque world number one, Eva Calvo Gomez plus the 2014 European Championships.
They last met at the Manchester leg of the World Series back in October when 23-year-old Calvo Gomez produced a golden point finish though her Welsh rival did come out on top in this season’s Swiss Open final.
Despite those disappointments Jones, 21, is desperate to finish her physically demanding 2014 with victory.
“It’s been a hard year fighting with much more than we have done in the past,” agreed Jones, the recently crowned Commonwealth champion. “With one ring it is going to be like a mini Olympics and I am buzzing for it.
“Taekwondo is one of the top sports in Mexico so I am sure there will be big crowds, shouting and screaming. Luckily there aren’t any Mexicans in my event so hopefully they can shout for me.”
Jones is one of eight current or former Olympic champions in action during the two-day competition in Queretaro, a three-hour drive from the capital, Mexico City. And two London 2012 gold medallists-Argentina’s Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich (-80kg) and Italy’s Carlo Molfetta (+80kg) are in the same competitions as Muhammad and Cho
“It’s been a long season with lots of fights; probably the busiest I have ever been,” agrees Londoner Muhammad, 23, a gold medallist at the inaugural Grand Prix in Manchester 12 months ago. “But I am ready to finish the year with a big bang and go for that gold medal.
“Competing at the Commonwealths and French Open gave me chance to try and execute a few different game plans. So, I am feeling very sharp both physically and mentally and raring to go.”
All three Brits trained and slept in oxygen acclimatization tents prior to leaving their Manchester base last week to help them replicate the higher altitude conditions they have found in Central America.
“The first couple of days were tough,” agreed Cho, also a WGP gold medallist from Manchester 2013. “But now we have got used to breathing less oxygen, we are actually managing it well.
“It’s been a long season starting with Egypt back in February but now we are down to the last one.
“I have had some ups and downs but this is the biggie,” adds Cho, also a GP bronze medallist from Suzhou, China and silver medallist from Astana, Kazakhstan earlier this year.
“This is the one we are looking to to help us next year to get the best possible ranking for 2016.”
Cho, 25, added:”The Grand Prix is turning out to be the tournament I enjoy doing the most because it was the first big medal I got in 2013
“I get a buzz when it comes to the Grand Prix because all the best fighters are here. Now, it’s even tougher with only the top eight.
“But I love the challenge. I know these guys inside out and I’ve been putting a plan into place for this at the Commonwealth Championships and at the French Open.
“Now it is down to me to execute it. It has been a long journey but hopefully I can get the job done.”
The Grade-8 Queretaro Grand Prix final features eight Olympic weight categories; the -49kg, -57kg, -67kg and +67kg in the female division; the -58kg, -68kg, -80kg and +80kg in the male class.
The gold medal winner in each category will receive a prize money of $6,000 U.S. dollars, while the silver medalist will earn $3,000 dollars and the bronze medal winner $1,000.
3 December 2014
Male -80kg: Lutalo Muhammad
4 December 2014
Female -57kg: Jade Jones
Male +80kg: Mahama Cho