London 2012 bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad heads Britain’s nine strong squad attending this weekend’s Serbia Open in Belgrade. With the inaugural World Grand Prix taking place in Manchester less than two months away, Muhammad and his team mates are keen for some extended match practice. It’s also chance to finally remove any hangover from the WTF World Championships in Mexico earlier in the year.
“The World Championship was disappointing for me but I am staying positive,” said Muhammad who reverts to his Olympic weight of -80kg for his trip to Serbia. “I am looking to put in some good performances this weekend and head into the Grand Prix full of confidence. I definitely want to put on a good show in front of a home crowd at the Grand Prix in Manchester. Going to a home Olympics was definitely a great experience in my life. But I have put that away at the back of my mind now because there is so much more I want to do in the sport. Rio 2016 is the ultimate goal but the Grand Prix is at the forefront of my mind for now.”
Fellow Olympian Martin Stamper also returns to the mat for the first time since the World Championships; one of three players in the -68kg weight division, including Mancunian Jordan Gayle. Fellow Mancunian Dominic Brookes also gets his opportunity to impress after recently joining the GB Academy on a full-time basis. The chemistry graduate was among 19 new players taking up residency at the Academy in Manchester, 15 from the Fighting Chance, Battle4Brazil initiative.
Bianca Walkden and Stephanie Allen are the two female members of the team. “I would do a competition every month if I was allowed,” grinned Walkden, certainly over the pain of returning emtpy handed from the Worlds in Puebla. “I want to win everything and my hunger never leaves me. I made one mistake in the last four seconds at the Worlds and it cost me. Hopefully, I won’t be doing the same this weekend.”
*The World Grand Prix takes place at Manchester Central from December 13-15. It will feature 250 of the world’s top athletes, across eight different weight categories, battling it out for qualification points towards the Rio Olympics of 2016.
All athletes compete Sunday,
-58kg: Dominic Brookes
-68kg: Jordan Gayle
-68kg: George Lee
-68kg: Martin Stamper
-74kg: Ben Haines
-80kg: Lutalo Muhammad
-87kg Andy Deer
-73kg: Bianca Walkden
-73lkg: Stephanie Allen