Mahama Cho was Britain’s golden boy on the opening night of the WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix at Manchester Central yesterday.
But heavyweight Cho’s sudden death victory over Brazilian rival Guilherme Felix owed everything to his boxing skills as much as his martial arts ability.
Cho twice deployed the ‘Mahama Hammer’ to devastating effect, including his thrilling +80kg final success over his little known South American rival.
After the contest ended 2-2 after three rounds, he threw a right hand punch 50 seconds into sudden death to send the home crowd into raptures.
It was a repeat of the shot that put paid to French rival, M’Dar N’Diaye, in the quarter-finals.
“I tore my hamstring a month or so ago but rather than do nothing I worked on the punch bag with Rhys Ingram (GB’s strength and conditioning coach),” explained Cho.
“It changed my perspective from taekwondo to boxing and I used it to my advantage today,” he confirmed. “I looked at using it to get out of danger and thank goodness it worked.
“The coaches had a plan for me and we executed it to perfection,” added the 24-year-old world number 81.
“I did make some errors but that’s normal. If everything is perfect every day you wouldn’t be working every day.
“This means so much to me and I have to give it to my father. He has never given up on me even when I wanted to stop. He motivated me to come back,” added Cho who only re-joined the GB Academy in Manchester back in August after nearly two years training and living in France.
Indeed, Cho was just one second from oblivion when he trailed N’Diaye 9-8. But with time draining away N’Diaye was penalised for inactivity to force the contest into golden point.
A punch to the chest completed Cho’s rescue act before another roller-coaster outing in his semi-final against Dong-min Cha. South Korea’s 2008 Olympic champion hit back from 4-1 down to lead 6-5 after the opening two rounds.
The flurry of points continued in the final round with Cho collecting a couple of three-point head shots en route to a 14-7 success.
Having already received a walkover in round two after current Olympic gold medallist, Carlo Molfetta’s withdrawal from the tournament before the start, Cho sensed this might be his night. That belief was re-enforced as unknown Felix put paid to London 2012 silver medallist and 2013 world champion, Anthony Obame, in the second semi-final.
Earlier, Spain’s reigning Olympic silver medallist, Brigida Yague had the distinction of winning the first ever World Grand Prix title beating South Korea’s Kim Sohui 9-1 in the -49kg final. And there was the merest consolation for British hope, Bianca Walkden, as Russian Olga Ivanova claimed the +67kg crown.
World champion Ivanova defeated Liverpudlian Walkden 9-5 in the last 16 before progressing to edge out Sohui’s compatriot, Injong Lee, 2-1 in the final.
Order of Play for today Saturday, December 14 (9.30am start)
-58kg: Dominic Brookes (Manchester),
-80kg: Andrew Deer (Tamworth) and Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow).
-67kg: Maria Reynolds (Liverpool)
Sunday, December 15:
-68kg: Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Michael Harvey (Manchester) and Martin Stamper (Liverpool)
-57kg: Caroline Fisher (Barnsley) and Jade Jones (Bodelwyddan, Flint)
Results (GB only)
Friday, December 13:
Mahama Cho (London)
Round One (last 32): bt Mohamed Ahmed Aymanha (Egypt) 10-4
Round Two (Last 16): walkover Carlo Molfetta (Italy)
Round Three (Quarter-final): bt M’Dar N’Diaye (France) sudden death (9-9 after 3 rounds)
Semi-final: bt Dong-Min Cha (South Korea) 14-7
Final: beat Guilherme Felix (Brazil) sudden death (2-2 after 3 rounds).
Georgia Barnes (Southampton)
Round One (Last 32): bt Janike Lai (Norway) 5-4
Round Two: lost sudden death (0-0 after 3 rounds) to Zhaoyi Li (China).
Bianca Walkden (Liverpool)
Round One (Last 32); bt Sandra Vanegas Valderrama (Colombia) 4-1
Round Two (Last 16) lost 9-5 to Olga Ivanova (Russia) 9-5
Stephanie Allen (Battersea).
Round One (Last 32) walkover Aminata Doumbia (Mali)
Round Two: (Last 16) lost 7-2 to Briseida Acosta Balarezo (Mexico).
For a comprehensive preview of the WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix follow this link to obtain a free copy of the official tournament guide:http://gbtaekwondo.co.uk/EventProgramme.html
For tickets go to http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/WTGP13; follow GP@; Facebook: taekwondogp; Twitter: @taekwondogp