Gary Hall forecasts “big titles ahead” after his Great Britain stars achieved some encouraging results at the latest World Grand Prix in Kazakhstan.
And Hall, the GB Taekwondo Performance Director, would love his prediction to come right at the next WTF Grand Prix to be hosted at Manchester`Central from October 24-26.
Olympic champion Jade Jones and Mahama Cho secured silver medals in Astana;both losing their respective finals at -57kg and +80kg in golden point extra time. Damon Sansum claimed a first ever World Grand Prix medal with bronze in the -80kg division.
In addition, Jones achieved a stunning semi-final victory over Korean world champion, So-hee Kim-the referee stopping the fight at 12-0-while Cho knocked out Italy’s London 2012 Olympic gold medallist, Carlo Molfetta, en route to his latest GP medal.
“Jade was outstanding in terms of her performance, particularly on the new electronic scoring system,” enthused Hall. “But, as in most levels of top level sport, it is decided by the finest of margins.
“However, I have no doubt whether it be in Manchester next month or in Mexico for the Grand Prix finals later she will get that gold medal.
“Cho went to sudden death in his final as well demonstrating again he is right up there with the best of the world.
“Damon came up against a five time world champion in Steven Lopez who, like Roger Federer, is improving his levels as he gets older. So, Damon’s was a really sound performance.
“The other guys (Lutalo Muhammad, Michael Harvey and Martin Stamper) worked hard and will have learned from their experiences.
“We have got players who are among the top ones in the world. They expect to win and if they keep making improvements there are some big titles ahead of them.
“But our whole programme is going from strength to strength through the Cadets, the Juniors and the Seniors because we have medalled at every major championship this year.
“So, it’s a good time for the sport and there is so much more still to be done. Fortunately, we have the talent that can really maximise the programme that is in operation.”
Jones eventually suffered a bad case of deja vu after reaching her second Grand Prix final. As she did at Manchester Central last December, the 21-year-old from Flint lost to Spaniard Eva Calvo Gomez. “Anything can happen with golden point,” said Jones.
“But I am chuffed with my improvements going towards Rio. Eva has become a great rival and this time she was the better fighter. Hopefully, I can make it third time lucky in Manchester.”
Cho, a Grand Prix champion in home surroundings last December, almost doubled up his gold medal tally but eventually missed out to M’bar N’Diaye of France.
“Unfortunately, I made one mistake throughout the whole day and it cost me the final,” said Cho of his agonising defeat, 24 seconds into overtime. “But with a bit more focus I am sure I could have won.
“It is something to work on for the next World Grand Prix in Manchester but I am really satisfied because that was definitely my best performance this year.”
Former world kickboxing champion Sansum, a graduate of the inaugural Fighting Chance initiative, now regularly produces the goods in WTF Taekwondo as his results in Astana demonstrated.
“While it is not the colour I wanted, it’s good for the points and the road to Rio,” explained Elgin raised Sansum after his narrow defeat to America’s two-time Olympic gold medallist, Lopez.
“I think I’m improving at a fast rate and still relatively new to the sport. I’m on track in where I want to be and comfortable in taekwondo now.
“The sudden death could have gone either way and I could have come home with gold but I’ll settle for bronze. Next time in Manchester it’ll definitely be a different colour medal.”