Home / Bianca Walkden / Take a Chance on Me! Tokyo 2020 Creates Record Interest in Taekwondo Talent ID Initiative

Take a Chance on Me! Tokyo 2020 Creates Record Interest in Taekwondo Talent ID Initiative

12th August 2021

Team GB Lauren Williams, against Matea Jelic (CRO).

A nation got its kicks watching GB Taekwondo fighters battle for Olympic glory at Tokyo 2020.

Now GB Taekwondo bosses at the National Taekwondo Centre in Manchester hope a surge of interest in the sport generated by the Games will prove pivotal for taekwondo’s future success.

Dubbed the ‘Olympic Bounce’, a record 297 applicants registered an expression of interest to join the Fighting Chance scheme, a proven talent spotting initiative aimed at 13–18-year-olds.

The previous highest figure was 223 back in 2018-an increase of 33 percent. It is a near 60 percent jump from four years ago when 193 applied.

In another first, females (156) outnumber the males (141) in wanting to follow in the footsteps of Tokyo medallists, Lauren Williams, Bianca Walkden and Bradly Sinden. That’s an 89 percent increase from the number of females applying in 2019.

The trio’s epic scraps for gold came up just short, winning two silvers and a bronze, but their heroic efforts captured the hearts of millions watching on television.

They will be reliving those breath-taking moments and detailing their own sporting journeys tonight (Thursday) on BBC 5 Live between 7-8pm.

Welsh wonder Williams is a Fighting Chance graduate, joining the GB Academy through the 2013 Battle4Brazil launch.

London 2012 and Rio 2016 medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, who provided expert and captivating analysis during Tokyo 2020 on the unfolding drama nearly 6,000 miles away, is another FC success story.

Fighting Chance is not exclusively for taekwondo trained prospects. A sizeable proportion of applicants were from non-taekwondo backgrounds or from those currently involved in other martial arts.

Gary Hall, GB Performance Director, said: “Since Sarah Stevenson won a historic first Olympic medal for Team GB at Beijing 2008, there has been a continual upward curve in taekwondo’s profile.

“Delivering medals at the European and World Championships has also played a major part in boosting the sport’s popularity and participation.

“But the ‘bounce’ in interest is always more significant when it comes to the Olympics as we have now seen by the response to what happened in Tokyo.

“While our guys didn’t manage to win gold this time, people were captivated by their performances plus the sheer excitement, tension and drama taekwondo has a regular habit of creating.

“What an amazing story it will be if any of this new Fighting Chance cohort goes on to become an Olympic champion.”

Steve Green, GB Development Programme Manager, said: “As a sport and organisation we have benefitted from the exposure we have received in Tokyo buoyed by our Olympic medallists.

“This has directly impacted on what has been our strongest Fighting Chance (13-18) recruitment campaign to date.

“We are hugely excited to be inviting 85% of the 297 applicants who expressed an interest.

“We now look forward to welcoming these athletes to the National Taekwondo Centre, (Manchester) at the end of August for phase one of the selection process. These may well be some of the future Olympians for LA 2028 and Brisbane 2032.”

GB chiefs now hope a similar bounce is achieved off the back of the forthcoming Paralympics (August 24-September 5) when para taekwondo makes its bow and is also confirmed for Paris 2024.

Amy Truesdale, Beth Munro and Matt Bush have earned their place as taekwondo trailblazers for Paralympics GB in Japan.

While Amy is steeped in taekwondo, world champion Bush from Wales came into the sport via Brazilian Jujitsu. He previously forged an athletics career in shot and javelin.

Liverpudlian Munro, the most recent recruit, is a sporting all-rounder having played netball and thrown the javelin.

As with Fighting Chance, any Paralympic hopefuls can still submit a talent pathway application by clicking here.

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