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.
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).
+80kg: Cho, Walker
-67kg: Whitehead; +67kg: Slavin.
-80kg: Deer, Muhammad, Sansum
-68kg: Gayle, Harvey, Stamper
-57kg: Booth, Jones