Mine’s A Double. Queen B Out To Extend Her World Championship Reign
Reigning champion Bianca Walkden will spearhead GB Taekwondo’s 15-strong squad for the 2017 WTF World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, South Korea. (June 22-30)
The team also includes Jade Jones and Lutalo Muhammad who boast four Olympic medals between them but who only one from a World Championship.
Muhammad, who hasn’t fought since his agonising Rio Olympic final defeat, missed the 2015 Championships through injury.
Six of the 15 athletes will be competing at their first World Championships.
However, Walkden, also the reigning European champion, is confident the squad can deliver success.
“The boys are catching us up so the girls need to step it up,” says the Liverpudlian heavyweight who became only Britain’s second world champion after Sarah Stevenson when winning in Russia two years ago.
“I do think they are going to win some good medals. Everyone is potentially looking towards Peter (Radford) but I think a dark horse could be Bradly Sinden at -63kg.
Certainly, the Doncaster teenager is one of the lesser known names in a squad packed with title winning athletes, few more experienced than Walkden.
“I am really excited and if I fight well I can become double world champion,” she says. “I have beaten everyone before but you still can’t under estimate them.
“Taekwondo is such a random sport: you can win one day and lose the next. But if I give everything I can, mentally and physically, then I can win again.”
Walkden, who made her senior World Championship debut in 2009, has fought regularly since winning Rio bronze last summer. She recently won the President’s Cup event in Athens as well as the German Open
“If I can go out there and win after not getting what I truly wanted at the Olympics it would be a nice double: double ACL re-construction, double European champion and double World champion,” she smiled.
Double Olympic gold medallist Jones made a winning comeback to competition at the President’s Cup. And she’s looking to improve a World Championship record that includes a silver in South Korea six years ago but two losses before the medal rounds in 2013 and 2015.
Damon Sansum (-80kg silver) and Rachelle Booth (-62kg bronze) helped Britain achieve a second best ever medal showing two years ago. Now, they’re bidding to upgrade the colour though Sansum hasn’t competed since the disappointment of missing Rio Olympic selection.
However, the 30-year-old Scot is fully fit and re-energised by his absence from the sport and is due a comeback tournament in Moldova later this month.
“It’s crazy-this will be my fourth World Championships,” recalls Sansum. “My first was soon after I came into the Academy and I got to the last 32.
“The next time I reached the last 16 and the Worlds afterwards it was silver. I am improving each time so a gold and to become Britain’s first male world taekwondo champion would be unreal. And it is an achievable goal.”
For Courtney Eardley, this is the second World selection in the month having been chosen to represent Great Britain at the multi-sport World University Games in Taipei from August 18-30.
She is one of the six GB World Championship debutants including: Hassan Haider, Bradly Sinden, Peter Longobardi-Radford, Christian McNeish and European and double World Junior champion, Lauren Williams.
The GB Squad is:
-54kg: Hassan Haider (Falkirk)
-58kg: Max Cater (Southampton)
-63kg: Bradly Sinden (Doncaster)
-68kg: Peter Longobardi-Radford (Rye)
-74kg: Christian McNeish (Plaistow)
-80kg: Damon Sansum (Elgin)
-87kg: Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow)
+87kg: Mahama Cho (Stockwell)
-49kg: Courtney Eardley (Wakefield)
-57kg: Jade Jones (Flint)
-62kg: Rachelle Booth (Wigan)
-67kg: Lauren Williams (Newport, Gwent)
-73kg: Jade Slavin (Consett)
+73kg: Bianca Walkden (Liverpool)