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.
*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
Feyi Pearce (Croydon)
Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Mike Harvey (Manchester), Martin Stamper (Liverpool)
Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow), Damon Sansum (Elgin), Andy Deer (Tamworth)
Mahama Cho (Stockwell), Lyle Walker (Law).
Asia Bailey (Falkirk)
Rachelle Booth (Wigan), Jade Jones (Flint).
Stella Whitehead (Doncaster).
Jade Slavin (Sunderland)