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Heavyweight Lyle Targets First National Taekwondo Title

Strapping Scot Lyle Walker came out on the wrong side of taekwondo’s tight margins at the National Championships 12 months ago.

On Saturday, the 20-year-old heavyweight from Law is back to try and make amends for his near miss against GB Academy team mate, Mahama Cho.

Walker is one of nearly 700 fighters gathering at Manchester’s National Cycling Centre for the two-day event which has proved a springboard for many of the nation’s best known stars.

Twelve months ago European Games gold medallist, Charlie Maddock, and World Championship bronze medallist, Rachelle Booth, snapped up their first National crowns.

Walker’s progress hasn’t been quite as rapid since joining the GB programme with his fellow Fighting Chance initiative graduates in 2013.

But with a WTF World Grand Prix appearance under his belt and the close encounter against Cho as a benchmark, the quietly spoken strong man has no complaints.

“I lost 3-2 last year and it was a close fight throughout,” he recalls of his 2014 National silver. “I train with Cho every day and so we push each other as much as we can.

“It’s great to test myself against him. Cho isn’t competing this time so hopefully I can get gold.

“It would be great to become National champion. However, I don’t though feel under any extra pressure. It’s just a chance to implement and apply my targets in my fights.

“But I know I still have to show my improvement and win medals to secure my place within the Academy. Hopefully, the success will coincide with the improvement.”

The two-day event features competitors, some as young as 10, from more than 50 taekwondo clubs throughout the length and breadth of the country.

It’s possible some of those in action will be contenders for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Certainly Lyle and his fellow GB trained colleagues: Max Cater, Levi Goodridge, Josh Calland, Ben Haines, Tony Stephenson and Archie Waldock will hope to be pushing for places in the Far East.

Waldock, fighting under the BTS club banner, captured the -51kg junior title last year while Calland, representing Liverpool Elite, was junior champion at -55kg.

Cater, 18 on the 18th of this month, is the current Commonwealth champion in addition to a medallist this year in: Bosnia, Turkey, Switzerland and Australia.

Haines from Portsmouth defends his -74kg title, boosted by last weekend’s Israel Open bronze medal.

Next weekend’s WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Turkey means the likes of Cho, London 2012 golden girl, Jade Jones and 2015 World Champion, Bianca Walkden, won’t be on competitive duty in Manchester.

However, they will be in attendance in a non-fighting capacity, signing autographs and passing on tips to the next generation of stars.

This year’s Championships include for the first time the introduction of para-taekwondo competitions for men and women. Classification is scheduled to take place on Saturday with events taking place on Sunday.

Admission for all events costs £12 per day for adults and £ 7 for children (15 and under). For more information visit: www.gbtaekwondo.co.uk/usrdata/15Nationals100.pdf

*To watch Olympic champion Jade Jones, World Championship gold medallist, Bianca Walkden, and Britain’s other top stars fighting on home territory for the last time before next year’s Olympics, take in the action at Manchester’s edition of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix from October 16-18. Tickets are now on sale at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wtgp

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