Heavy Mob Descend On Manchester For Olympic Rumble
More than 100 hopefuls arrived in Manchester this weekend with a goal to become a Great Britain Olympic athlete.
And GB Taekwondo Performance Director, Gary Hall, believes the latest search for a star scheme will unearth a future international medal winner.
This is the third time in five years the governing body has turned to its successful ‘Fighting Chance’ programme to recruit martial arts exponents with a desire to represent Great Britain at Rio 2016 or Tokyo 2020.
London 2012 bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, 2014 European Championship silver medallist, Damon Sansum and reigning Commonwealth champion, Andrew Deer were from the inaugural ‘Fighting Chance’ intake.
Welsh teenager Lauren Williams, the current WTF World Junior champion, Youth Olympics bronze medallist, Christian McNeish, and Commonwealth gold medallist, Rachelle Booth, have already graduated with honours from the second, ‘Battle4Brazil’ intake.
However, unlike the previous two schemes, this latest initiative is weight specific-heavyweight to be exact. And Hall is keen to unearth a new Mahama Cho-inaugural WTF World Grand Prix champion in 2013-or last year’s European +73kg gold medallist, Bianca Walkden.
“We had more than 170 people apply and we have narrowed it down to just over a 100 for this weekend testing event,” explained Hall.
“I was delighted with the response because it shows there is still a thirst for Fighting Chance. Some of them have been through Fighting Chance before, some are currently practicing taekwondo while others are from kick boxing, karate, kung-fu; the whole spectrum of martial arts.
“For the first time, we are on the lookout for juniors because, like the seniors, we don’t have enough heavyweight players.
“It is getting tight to make the GB team for Rio but not impossible. The gap for a heavyweight to a podium is a lot less than say a -58kg or 68kg male.”
The new recruits will be assessed by GB Academy coaches during Saturday and Sunday with successful applicants invited back for a week-long boot camp in about a month’s time.
“If anyone makes it through the boot camp then they will go onto a full time programme and be assessed every three months in terms of how they are progressing,” added Hall.
“We think from previous Fighting Chance initiatives there could be 10-20 going through. And if any successful athletes don’t make it for Rio, we also have an objective to ensure we fill the pipeline for Tokyo.
“Experience tells us that if you get it right with the heavyweights, the athlete can multi medal for you. And we are looking for someone with ability to try and do that for Great Britain.”
Sarah Stevenson, 31, remains the only Briton to win a heavyweight taekwondo Olympic medal, capturing bronze at Beijing 2008. The three time senior world champion is now a GB Taekwondo coach and featured prominently in the last search for a star.
“‘Fighting Chance’ does produce results; we just need heavier people to get involved. The term ‘heavy’ probably doesn’t sit so well, especially with females. But if you have got loads of medals round your neck who cares what weight you are fighting at!
For further information go to the website www.gbtaekwondo.co.uk/fightingchance
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