Stephenson Secures Breakthrough Greek Gold As Bianca Claims Comeback Medal
Former kick boxing world champion, Tony Stephenson, won a first ever gold medal in WTF Taekwondo as Bianca Walkden’s comeback from injury boosted Britain’s final medal tally at the Greek Open.
Stephenson, 23, from Bury, achieved his long awaited title in the -68kg weight division while Walkden, back in action for the first time in six months after knee surgery, claimed silver at +73kg.
There was silver too for fellow Liverpudlian, Josh Calland, while Consett’s Jade Slavin marked her first tournament appearance of 2015 with bronze at -73kg.
Stephenson has had to be patient since switching martial arts codes as part of the Fighting Chance, Battle4Brazil initiative in September 2013.
But he took his latest chance to shine superbly beating Spain’s reigning European Junior champion, Eduardo Longobardi, 3-2 in the final after earlier wins over opponents from Canada, Israel and Italy.
“It’s great to get my first gold medal since coming through Fighting Chance,” confirmed Stephenson. “I’d like to thank my team mates coaches and staff.
“The atmosphere was great and the team’s positive support was superb. I couldn’t have performed to the level I needed to without that.”
Heavyweight Walkden, 21, admitted to nerves prior to her return from the second cruciate knee ligament injury of her career. But the former world number two needn’t have worried as she progressed to the final, including a 3-2 semi-final success over talented Croatian, Iva Rados.
Rados is the reigning European -73kg gold medallist as well as a winner of the Serbia, Israel and Paris Open titles in 2014. Walkden, however, came through 3-2 before losing 3-1 against Poland’s Aleksandra Kowalczuk in the final. “It was good to be back but I just wish I had got gold,” she said.
Fellow Liverpudlian Josh Calland also claimed silver, his first senior medal since joining the GB Academy. Calland came through four fights to reach the final before being forced to retire midway through his last fight as a result of injury.
Commonwealth champion Jade Slavin looked good for a top podium finish after defeating London 2012 champion, Milicia Mandic 10-9 in the quarter-finals. Unfortunately she lost in the semis to Turkey’s Furkana Aydin, a bronze medallist at last year’s World Grand Prix in Manchester.