Walkden, McNeish strike gold as Brits on cloud nine at Sofia Open
4th March 2018
All conquering Bianca Walkden and Christian McNeish spearheaded GB Taekwondo’s success at the Sofia Open in Bulgaria with golden performances.
Of the 14 Manchester trained athletes in action, nine returned home with medals including a comeback silver for double Olympic Games medallist, Lutalo Muhammad.
But pride of place went to Liverpudlian heavyweight Walkden and Londoner McNeish who topped the podium in the +73kg and -68kg weight divisions respectively.
Walkden hasn’t lost now for nearly 12 months, winning her final seven tournaments of 2017, including the World Championship, and opening up 2018 with back-to-back victories.
Her latest triumph came against Serbia’s Ana Bajic courtesy of a 9-5 score line. And Walkden was one Brit too many for Bajic who knocked out Consett’s Jade Slavin in the semi-finals.
Plaistow born McNeish can’t match his team mate’s conversion rate of tournaments into medals. However, he’s now added the a first ever Sofia Open crown to victories in France and the United States.
A semi-final whitewash of fellow GB Academy star, Peter Longobardi-Radford, pitted McNeish against home favourite, Mitko Dzhordzhev in the final. A 9-3 win silenced the partisan crowd.
In contrast to Walkden and McNeish, fellow Londoner Muhammad, 26, has been sidelined by injury, including a late withdrawal from the World Taekwondo Grand Prix in London last October.
However, fighting at -87kg the ‘Walthamstow Warrior’ showed his class by reaching the final only losing 28-24 to Ivan Trajkovic of Slovenia.
“After nearly seven months away from the ring it felt amazing to be back doing what I do best,” he said.
“Thanks to my team and huge thanks to everyone for the overwhelming support.”
The remaining six medals were all bronze for: Mahama Cho (+87kg), Damon Sansum (-80kg), Peter Radford-Longobardi (-68kg), Cameron Booth (-58kg), Jade Slavin (+73kg) and Lauren Williams (-67kg).