Olympic champion Mandic reigns supreme on opening day

MILICA Mandic thanked her coach Dragan Jovic for teaching her crucial blocking techniques that saw her concede just five points as she stormed to gold at World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester.

The Serbian arrived in the North East as one of the favourites for the women’s +68kg title having claimed +67kg gold at the London Olympics.

And the 22-year-old didn’t disappoint, storming into the semi-final having remained untouched, including beating home crowd favourite Jade Slavin 5-0 in the quarter-final.

Mandic conceded her first point in her semi-final but the European champion didn’t panic, beating Holland’s Reshmie Oogink 7-4 in the showpiece to take home the title.

She said: “I practice a lot of blocks, I try and keep every fight to one or two points so I’m really satisfied. It is a tactic I developed with my coach and he is the best coach in the world.

“I’m very excited as it is my fourth grand prix since last year and I’ve gone from strength to strength.”

Along with Mandic Russia’s Anastasiia Baryshnikova won the -67kg category 5-2 against world number three Elin Johansson of Sweden and Volker Wodzich of Germany won the men’s +80kg.

The -67kg semi-finals were hotly contested with both matches being won by a point and the final was just as tight.

Baryshnikova said: “I’m very happy to have won here as my opponent was challenging. Manchester has been a great stage.”

Runner-up Johansson added: “I feel like I could’ve won but she’s tough to score against so I knew before the fight I had to be patient but I was stressed and a few mistakes cost me.

“These guys here they are the best in the world in my sport so it was an honour to be in the final and I’m very happy.”

Germany’s Wodzich won 3-1 against Uzbekistan’s Jasur Baykuziyev in a match that was very close throughout and was decided in the final round.

The champion said: “I think in the Grand Prix it’s not sure you can win a fight, it is very hard and you need a bit of luck and today I was lucky.”

On Manchester’s stage athletes tried to rack up points in order to boost their chances of qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016. It was a competitive field and lots of Olympic hopefuls made early exits but many of the winners feel confident that their victories will help them to achieve their dreams of a gold medal in two years time.

Mandic said: “I’m looking forward to it [Rio] but first I need to qualify, it’s a very strong competition. We have the World Championships and other tough contests first so we will see but I hope I can get there.”

Johansson added: “I’m looking forward to Rio; I have been since I was 16 so I hope I’ll be there and make my dream come true.”

Along with prospects of Rio qualification Manchester also played host to the excitement of new electronic head gear which for the first time detected successful head kicks.

There was a mixture of opinions on the usage of the technology from the athletes but generally the results were positive. “Sometimes it’s good because it’s electronic and the judges can’t see everything but I like video replaying more. I think it will be better in a month or so as there are still a few issues,” Mandic said.

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Mixed fortunes for British athletes on opening day of World Taekwondo Grand Prix

MAHAMA Cho insists it is all systems go for Rio 2016 despite failing to retain his World Taekwondo Grand Prix title in Manchester.

Cho headed to Manchester full of confidence, having never finished outside the top three at a Grand Prix and also having won the +80kg title at last year’s event. However his assault was ended by Olympic champion Carlo Molfetta in the round of 16, the Italian winning on a golden point.

But despite the 25-year-old’s premature exit this time around, Cho admits it has done little to stunt his confidence as he aims to make his mark at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. “I always fight to the dying seconds no matter how much time is left, that’s how I fight, I never give up,” he said.

“Golden points can go either way, his timing worked well and he was the better fighter that’s why he won.

“It went right to the wire and I was expecting it. Unfortunately it wasn’t me through to the next round.

“We’re still working towards Rio but it’s a long path. We’ve got the Grand Prix Final in Mexico and World Championships next year so we are constantly working towards it.”

Elsewhere for Great Britain, wildcard entry Jade Slavin carried the flag furthest for the home team as she reached the quarter-final of the women’s +67kg. There she lost 5-0 to Olympic gold medallist Milica Mandic but there was little to dampen the 21-year-old’s mood.

She said: “I’m really proud and just relieved I did so well because I was nervous.

“I didn’t expect to win one fight as I’ve never competed at this level before; I’m pretty pleased with myself.

“It’s been my dream since I started taekwondo when I was nine so I’d love to get there [Rio]. I just have to keep training hard and entering these competitions and hopefully keep improving over time.”

Meanwhile, fellow Brits Lyle Walker and Stella Whitehead found the going much tougher, exiting in the first round. Debutant Walker had a tough opener against France’s M’Bar N’Diaye but showed encouraging signs for the future, eventually going down 16-12 to his more illustrious opponent.

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Drawsheets for -67, +67 and +80 now available

Drawsheets for athletes competing in -67, +67 and +80 on Friday October 24 are now available by clicking here

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Law Man Aims to Take No Prisoners at World Taekwondo Grand Prix

Lyle Walker used to enjoy punching opponents in the face but now gets his kicks in other ways.

The Scottish heavyweight makes his World Grand Prix debut in Manchester on Saturday just over a year after joining the GB Academy.

Walker, from the South Lanarkshire village of Law, is a former practitioner of ITF style taekwondo which allows punching to the face. He is now schooled in Olympic style, WTF Taekwondo, which permits punching to the body only.

“I have had to learn restraint and control”, smiles the strapping 19-year-old wild card. “It was frustrating and harder than I expected at the start getting to grips with WTF Taekwondo.

“A few times I nearly went to punch to the face but managed to stop myself. But once I got used to the technique of WTF it’s been really easy.

“So, the Grand Prix is a great opportunity to show how far I have come,” added Walker, a silver medallist at last month’s National Championships, a Greek Open bronze medallist and most recently Serbian Open silver medallist, losing on golden point to Croatian, Vedran Golec. “I found out a couple of weeks ago I had been selected and have been excited ever since.”

Walker is one of 14 GB stars in action at the third Grand Prix of 2014 (October 24-26) and the second to be hosted in Manchester after last December’s inaugural event. A total of 256 of the world’s best will descend on Manchester Central to compete in the eight Olympic weight divisions.

Walker, who successfully applied to join the GB set-up through the Battle4Brazil, Fighting Chance initiative, competes on Saturday alongside London raised, Mahama Cho, who won gold in Manchester in 2013 and further medals at the Grand Prix in China and Kazakhstan.

This latest World Grand Prix is part of UK Sport’s Gold Event Series and is staged in partnership with Manchester City Council, GB Taekwondo and the World Taekwondo Federation.

 

*Tickets are now on sale here. More information about tickets and the full Grand Prix schedule is available on the event website www.taekwondogp.com

 

GB Taekwondo squad for World Grand Prix, Manchester Central, October 24-26, 2014

Men:

-58kg:

Feyi Pearce (Croydon)

-68kg:

Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Mike Harvey (Manchester), Martin Stamper (Liverpool)

-80kg:

Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow), Damon Sansum (Elgin), Andy Deer (Tamworth)

+80kg:

Mahama Cho (Stockwell), Lyle Walker (Law).

 

Female:

-49kg:

Asia Bailey (Falkirk)

-57kg:

Rachelle Booth (Wigan), Jade Jones (Flint).

-67kg:

Stella Whitehead (Doncaster).

+67kg:

Jade Slavin (Sunderland).

 

Schedule

October 24

Male:

+80kg: Cho, Walker

Female:

-67kg: Whitehead; +67kg: Slavin.

 

October 25

Male:

-58kg: Pearce

-80kg: Deer, Muhammad, Sansum

Female:

-49kg: Bailey

 

October 26

Male:

-68kg: Gayle, Harvey, Stamper

-57kg: Booth, Jones

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World Taekwondo GP Event Guide Available Now!

Click on the image to view the 2014 WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix Event Guide

TGP(Programe)100-page-001

 

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Model pupil Jade ready for the fight

Grand Prix debutant Jade Slavin answers our questions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT THE GB ACADEMY?

“I started at the Academy in June but I have been doing taekwondo since I was nine.”

HOW DID YOU GET THE CALL TO JOIN?

“I first got the call when I was at Uni (Northumbria University). I was invited to come down for a day sparring and came down for a day and sparred against some of the girls on the team.

“Then I came back down the following week before a couple of months later I got asked to come down for a week’s trial. I thought I did okay but it wasn’t for another couple of months before I got invited to join full-time.”

WHAT DID YOU STUDY?

“I did a three-year sports science and nutrition degree and came out with a 2:2. I would have preferred a 2:1 but I am still happy I passed with an okay mark. Now I have finished my studies I am concentrating on my taekwondo and not so much on the modelling.”

WAS IT A SURPRISE TO GET ASKED TO JOIN THE GB ACADEMY?

“I thought I was a bit too old. I had finished Uni and most of the girls were 18 or 19 so I thought I wouldn’t get a chance. So, I was really excited and surprised when I got a chance to move to Manchester. I did have trials when I was 16 but the last stage and boot camp was on at the same time as my exams. I did my exams instead and didn’t think I would get another chance to prove myself.”

WHY DID YOU START TAEKWONDO ORIGINALLY?

“One of my dad’s friends did it. One day I bumped in to him and he had his taekwondo suit on. I was like ‘Dad, what is he doing, why he is he wearing that suit?’ Dad just said: ‘He does taekwondo, like the Bruce Lee films, you know’. I just wanted to have a go straight away and I loved it.”

HOW BIG A SURPRISE WAS GRAND PRIX CALL-UP?

“It was unbelievable considering I have only been here a short space of time. I didn’t think I was ready so I am so happy that Gary Hall and the other coaches think I am good enough. “

HOW DID YOU GET INTO MODELLING?

“I have always been tall and my family and friends used to say I should try and get into it. I started when I was 11, sending photos to agencies. But it wasn’t until I was about 16 when things started to roll a little bit. I got asked to do modelling for Athos, the clothing website, and other fashion shows. I am signed up to Maverick Models in Manchester but I really haven’t done too much work yet because I want to focus on my taekwondo plus the castings are usually during the week when I have training. I would rather stick to this.

YOU HAVE DONE BEAUTY PAGEANTS TOO?

“Yes, I did Miss Sunderland last year and made the finals and I also did Miss Earth in 2013 and got to the Grand Final. It was really exciting because I had not done anything like it before. I wanted to build my confidence up and try to better myself. But my main goal is taekwondo and trying to focus on Rio 2016.”

BECAUSE OF YOUR HEIGHT, DID YOU GET TEASED AS A YOUNGSTER?

“It was hard at school and I used to get bullied a few times for being tall and skinny. That’s why I got into taekwondo because my dad thought it would be a good idea to learn how to defend myself. I wasn’t badly bullied and it was more like verbal abuse.

“It did get me down and it was one of the reasons I started modelling to boost my confidence and prove people wrong. Hopefully, I am doing that now.”

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Britons Aiming for Home Rule at World Grand Prix in Manchester

GB Taekwondo has named a 14-strong squad for the Manchester leg of the World Grand Prix series (October 24-26) including Olympic champion, Jade Jones, and London 2012 bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad.

‘Walthamstow Warrior’ Muhammad and ‘Stockwell Slayer’, Mahama Cho used home advantage to strike gold at last year’s inaugural Grand Prix.

And GB Performance Director, Gary Hall, wants to replicate and potentially better the 2013 performances when Manchester Central again stages the tournament later this month.

“All the key players are in great shape,” says Hall of a selection including six Grand Prix debutants, four of them females. “You can never guarantee it will be the same as last year but what you can do is prepare as well as last time, if not better. That’s what we have done.

“The key weights for us are really strong and I am looking forward to the challenge ahead.” With three fighters in the -80kg, including Muhammad, plus Aaron Cook, representing the Isle of Man, this particular weight division should prove one of the main attractions for spectators.

In total, 250 of the world’s best players will gather for the three day event and after series stop-offs in Suzhou, China and Astana, Kazakhstan, Hall says of Manchester:”It will be the strongest field assembled this year. The Grand Prix have become so important because of qualification points towards Rio 2016 and are massive dates in the calendar.”

Cho, Jones-her second event silver- and Damon Sansum were World Taekwondo Grand Prix medallists in Astana back in August. “Jade is long overdue a gold in this event while Damon has really stepped it up this year and is going in the right direction,” confirmed Hall.

His GP first timers are: Scotland’s 2014 European bronze medallist, Asia Bailey, GB Academy newcomer, Jade Slavin of Sunderland plus Wigan’s Rachelle Booth and Scot Lyle Walker who both entered the GB system through the Fighting Chance, Battle4Brazil initiative. Croydon’s Feyi Pearce,17, who competes for Allen Taekwondo, and Yorkshire hope, Stella Whitehead from Scorpion Taekwondo, also receive dream call-ups.

However, there’s no place for current European senior gold medallist, Bianca Walkden. The Liverpool star has returned to full training after recovering from knee surgery earlier this year but Hall says the event has come just too soon.

“It’s been a great year for Bianca with a European title and a place in the world’s top 10. “But it’s not been a great ending because of her knee.

“However, she has made brilliant progress and her preparations are now all about doing the best she can next year which is World Championship year.”

This latest World Taekwondo Grand Prix is part of UK Sport’s Gold Event Series and is staged in partnership with Manchester City Council, GB Taekwondo and the World Taekwondo Federation.

 

*Tickets are now on sale through Ticketmaster. More information about tickets and the full Grand Prix schedule is available here.

*The new GB Taekwondo app is now available to download on Android or through the App Store.

GB Taekwondo squad for World Grand Prix, Manchester Central, October 24-26, 2014

Male:

-58kg:

Feyi Pearce (Croydon)

-68kg:

Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Mike Harvey (Manchester), Martin Stamper (Liverpool)

-80kg:

Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow), Damon Sansum (Elgin), Andy Deer (Tamworth)

+80kg:

Mahama Cho (Stockwell), Lyle Walker (Law).

 

Female:

-49kg:

Asia Bailey (Falkirk)

-57kg:

Rachelle Booth (Wigan), Jade Jones (Flint).

-67kg:

Stella Whitehead (Doncaster).

+67kg:

Jade Slavin (Sunderland)

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