Hey ho silver lining as Walkden narrowly misses Grand Prix crown
20th October 2018
Bianca Walkden collected GB Taekwondo’s third medal of the World Grand Prix but gold just eluded the Liverpool heavyweight in Manchester tonight. (Saturday)
The world number one and double world champion, bidding for her first Grand Prix title of the year breezed into the final of the +67kg weight division.
But roared on by a partisan crowd at the Regional Arena in her adopted city, Walkden suffered a 6-4 defeat to China’s Shuyin Zheng.
It was a case of deja-vu for the 27-year-old Brit beaten by her Asian rival in the 2016 Olympic Semi-Final in Rio.
“All I want to do is try and win gold and I was a little bit off that,” said Walkden.
“I tried a few moves that didn’t come off but hopefully I can go to the next competition and beat her there.
“If I want to be the best of the best I have got to fight the best of the best so bring it on.
“Hopefully next year I can turn this silver into gold at the World Championships in Manchester.
“That’s my ultimate goal is to retain my world title and go on to Tokyo in 2020 and become Olympic champion.”
Walkden reached her third Grand Prix final of the year with a 22-5 semi-final win over evergreen Maria Espinoza.
Espinoza is a three-time Olympic medallist going back to 2008 when she won gold in Beijing.
Now 31, and a former adversary of Sarah Stevenson-the first Queen of GB Taekwondo-she won a World Championship bronze medal last year.
But Walkden, whose journey to gold began with a first-round bye, dominated from the start leading 10-0 and then 18-2 going into the last two minutes.
Fellow heavyweight Rebecca McGowan produced a stunning first-round upset before exiting the tournament in the last 16.
The Dumbarton athlete shocked London 2012 champion and 2017 world gold medallist, Milica Mandic 9-4 to record the best win of her career.
McGowan, still only 18, also fought strongly against Asian Championship gold medallist Pan Gao before losing 19-8.
“Beating Mandic gave me a confidence boost,” said the Scottish teenager. “But I try to treat every opponent differently, forget the previous match and focus on the next one.
“I had a solid game plan which I stuck to.” On her next outing against Chinese rival Guo, she added: “I could have started it a lot stronger than I did.
“I took a bit too much pressure at the beginning and I was chasing the whole match.”
World Junior champion, Jordyn Smith and Maddison Moore, were the first two GB athletes in action on day two competing in the -49kg division.
“If I had stuck to my game plan and attacked, I think it would have gone a different way,” said former European karate champion, Moore, 23, after losing 17-14 against China’s Xueqin Tan.
“The pressure got to me so I am disappointed because I think I could have done well.
“I need to train harder and hopefully see some different results.”
Scottish teenager Jordyn lost 9-3 against South Korea’s Jae-young Sim
“She was a strong girl, but I held my own in the match,” she explained.
“There was only a point or two in it but I lost it chasing the game.
I felt my game plan went well. I executed it quite well but there is still stuff I need to work on to get to the top.
“All my family were here and had special tee shirts made. The whole crowd was so supportive. It makes you want to push on and do well.”
Falkirk’s Hassan Haider was the only British male in action during day two. The 20-year-old hoped to enjoy an extended stay in his fourth Grand Prix of the year.
Unfortunately, Haider was overtaken in the closing stages of his opening -58kg contest against Ukraine’s Taras Malchenko losing 18-17.
“A few decisions didn’t go my way but that’s taekwondo and you have to adapt,” he said.
“I went out with a strong game plan to give me the best chance of winning. And I think I am at my best when I play my game and not worry about my opponents.
“I was up by one point with one second to go but just got caught by one shot.”
-80kg: Damon Sansum (Elgin)
-57kg: Jade Jones (Flint), Kyla Julien (Huddersfield)