Williams leads the way as GB fighters look to cash in at World Grand Slam
12th December 2018
Lauren Williams stayed on course for a share in taekwondo’s richest tournament as the second World Taekwondo Grand Slam event opened in Wuxi, China.
The double European Championship gold medallist is part of an 11-strong GB Taekwondo squad chasing a £52,000 first prize.
And Welsh star Williams led the way on the opening day of five beating Croatian rival Doris Pole 2-0 to reach the last eight in the -67kg weight division.
“There is not a lot of money in taekwondo so to have this prize money gives athletes extra goals and ambitions,” said Williams who returns to action on Friday morning (December 14).
Scottish teenager Rebecca McGowan has made great strides with her career in the last few months including a victory over former Olympic champion, Milicia Mandic at the Manchester Grand Prix.
So, while teammate and double world champion, Bianca Walkden, received a bye, McGowan battled through to the same quarter-final stage defeating Kazakhstan’s Asian Games silver medallist, Cansel Deniz, 2-1.
“To be there fighting the best of the best is one thing,” said the Dumbarton youngster.
“But to be out here when everyone is fighting for this big prize is another.
“Bringing money into the sport will give people more drive to win.”
The Grand Slam format also allows for the runners-up and third place athletes to receive cash prizes of £16,000 and £4,000 respectively.
Rio Olympian Mahama Cho had promised his teammates a slap-up buffet had he won the heavyweight division.
Instead, it will be left for Rio 2016 silver medallist, Lutalo Muhammad, to feed the GB family. The Walthamstow Warrior is through to the quarter-finals at +80kg after an impressive 2-0 success against one of the world’s best heavyweights.
Azerbaijan’s Radik Isaev has won all the sport’s major titles, including Olympic gold in Rio, but Muhammad upset the odds in one of his first appearances in the heavyweight division.
Cho came close to joining him in the last eight but went down 0-2 against Uzbekistan’s Dimitriy Shokin, the 2015 world champion.
Good win against the European, World and reigning Olympic heavyweight champion today in China. Next stop the quarter finals on Friday against the home nation 🇨🇳. Thanks for the support!… https://t.co/IVPIZ17YUf
— Lutalo Muhammad (@LutaloMuhammad) December 12, 2018
There was no joy though for double World Championship medallist, Damon Sansum, beaten 0-2 by reigning world title holder, Milad Beigi of Azerbaijan.
Double Olympic champion Jade Jones is among the British contingent competing on day two (Thursday, December 13) alongside youngsters Kyla Julien (also -57kg), World Junior Champion, Jordyn Smith as well as, the -68kg males which includes reigning European Champion, Christian McNeish and World & European medallist, Bradly Sinden.
“Putting money into competitions will help athletes perform better,” agreed the promising Scot contesting -49kg.
Fellow teenager Kyla Julien from Huddersfield admitted she was shocked to be selected to fight alongside Welsh star, Jones.
“I am so excited to compete,” she said: ”The competition will be high level so it’s going to be a great experience.”
R16 for Bradly Sinden (-68kg), Christian McNeish (-68kg), Jordyn Smith (-49kg), Jade Jones (-57kg) and Kyla Julien (-57kg).
December 14: Quarter Final matches
December 15: Semi-Final matches
December 16: Finals