The Regional Arena, Sportcity is the venue for the WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix when 15 Brits, including Olympic and World champions, Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden, compete alongside nearly 250 international stars for medals, prize money and qualification points towards Rio.
Having won at least one medal at the seven Grand Prixs held since and including the inaugural tournament in December 2013, British players are determined to protect that proud record in front of a partisan crowd.
However, they won’t have it easy once the action starts tomorrow (Friday) on day one of three. The eight Olympic weight categories, to be decided from -49kg females to heavyweight +80kg men, are liberally sprinkled with taekwondo stardust.
London 2012 golden girl, Jones, will certainly have her work cut out with three-time 2014 Grand Prix winner, Eva Calvo Gomez. But the ‘Headhunter’ shouldn’t drop her guard either if she faces Iranian wonder kid, Kimia Zenoorin or Japan’s reigning world champion, Mayu Hamada.
Olympic bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad and 2015 World Championship runner-up Damon Sansum are Britain’s medal hopes at -80kg. But both are fully aware of the threat posed by Iranian powerhouse and rankings leader, Mahdi Khodabakhski.
Liverpudlian Walkden has yet to win a World Taekwondo Grand Prix gold medal but she is getting closer with bronze and silver in Russia and Turkey earlier this year. Serbia’s Milica Mandic tops the rankings while American Jackie Galloway – Walkden’s sudden death conqueror in last month’s +67kg GP final-is also in action.
“I do think I should have gold already but hopefully I can put that right in Manchester,” says the former world number two. “It would be great to have the full set.”
Despite her unmistakable Merseyside roots, Walkden won’t just have British fans cheering her on. “I’ve got a multi cultural family,” smiles ‘Queen B’. “My granddad is Italian and my stepdad is Iranian.
“I know a few words of each language but I’m not saying what they mean,” she laughs. “Hopefully, I’ll give them something to cheer about.”
There are a few tickets available for all three days but anyone unable to attend can watch live action via http://www.gbtaekwondo.co.uk/watch-the-world-taekwondo-grand-prix-live/ And for all the information about tickets and the full Grand Prix schedule visit the event website www.taekwondogp.com
GB squad for WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix, Regional Arena, Manchester, October 16-18:
-58kg: Josh Calland (Liverpool), Max Cater (Southampton); fight day October 17
-68kg: Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Michael Harvey (Manchester), Martin Stamper (Liverpool); fight day October 16
-80kg: Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow), Damon Sansum (Elgin), Tom Smith (Poplar); fight day October 18
+80kg: Mahama Cho (Stockwell), Lyle Walker (Law); fight day October 16
-49kg:Abigail Stones (Liverpool); fight day October 18
-57kg: Rachelle Booth (Wigan), Jade Jones (Flint); fight day October 18
-67kg: Carla Summerhill (Glasgow); fight day October 16
+67kg: Bianca Walkden (Liverpool); fight day October 17