Heavyweight Mahama Cho remains optimistic he can still make an Olympic Games debut in Rio next summer despite HIS early exit from the WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester today. (Friday)
Hampered by a lateral knee ligament injury suffered at last weekend’s Belgrade Open in Serbia, Cho lost 13-8 in round two against Iran’s Omid Amidi in the +80kg weight class.
And the Iranians proved a scourge of home fighters with eventual silver medallist, Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari, defeating Olympians, Michael Harvey and Martin Stamper at -68kg.
“I don’t class it as a chance gone,” insisted Cho, Great Britain’s first ever Grand Prix champion in December 2013.
“It was definitely a big improvement from where I was six months ago. But I have got to get the leg right and start to pick up points.
“After that you never know what might happen between now and the end of the year. All is doable.
“I am not ruling myself out of Rio. I always fight to the end. That’s the kind of person I am so I m going to carry on battling.”
Cho revealed he picked up the injury in unusual circumstances during his semi-final bout in Belgrade.
“I kicked my Russian opponent but it didn’t land on the athlete, it landed on the referee! I tried to stay as comfortable as possible today which is why I fought like I did.
“I didn’t want to re-injure it or make it worse. But we have the best medical staff in the world at GB Taekwondo and I am sure they are going to come up with a solution to get me back in the ring as quickly as possible.”
Cho, who scored a late three-point head shot to beat Cuban Robelis Despaigne in his first bout, trailed World University Games gold medallist Amidi 11-1 after the opening two rounds and despite a brave final rally in the last three minutes couldn’t claw back the entire deficit.
London 2012 Olympian Martin Stamper also paid for a slow start in his last 16 tie with Yagoubijouybari, losing 16-6.
“I fought him in Turkey where I was blocking his shots quite well,” said the dad of two and 2011 World Championship bronze medallist.
“So, I was surprised when he was scoring in the first round because I thought I had blocked his shots.
“But I should have been out of distance anyway and it cost me. I was 5-2 down after the first round against someone who is world class and who has picked up medals in the last two Grand Prix.
“I felt my shots were there but he is good at reading distance and he was always a danger.”
Earlier, Yagoubijouybari, a 2015 World Bronze medallist and double Grand Prix bronze medallist defeated 2011 World Championship silver medallist, Michael Harvey, 12-1.
“I can’t put my finger on what went wrong,” admitted the dejected Mancunian. “I felt good coming into the fight and never expected to lose 12-1. I don’t expect to lose 12-1 to anyone in the world.
“It’s back to the drawing board and see where I go from here. It is a difficult situation for me at the moment.”
Fellow Mancunian Jordan Gayle also exited in the opening round, beaten 16-2 by Mexican Saul Gutierrez.
“It was one of those fights where sometimes closer defeats are harder to take than that score line,” said Gayle. “He scored the kicks on the day and I didn’t. It was very hard to come back from that first round.
“I am not sure what’s next. I will have to go away and assess this result. But it was very disappointing to go out like that, especially fighting in front of a home crowd.”
Glaswegian doctor Carla Summerhill isn’t yet ready to resume her career in obstetrics and gynecology after a promising Grand Prix debut.
“On a different day that match could have gone another way,” said the 28-year-old following a 3-1 defeat against Spain’s Lua Pineiro. “It was neck and neck. I am no way outclassed at this level.
“I probably don’t have enough sparring partners to work with of all different sizes. But I am working on getting to training camps and hoping to come down to the GB Academy in Manchester to train.”
Fellow Scot Lyle Walker also failed to clear the opening hurdle at +80kg but was again boosted by his display against Spaniard Daniel Ros Gomez.
“I am sure with more experiences and more competitions like this, I will be in the top 32, fighting these guys on a regular basis,” said the 20-year-old from Law.
“If you are fighting the best in the world, there is no way you are not going to improve. I know I can do it; I just need to improve on those little margins.”
Michael Harvey (Manchester)
Round One: lost 12-1 to Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari (Iran)
Martin Stamper (Liverpool)
Round One: bt Abel Mendoza (Mexico) 20-8
Round Two: lost 16-6 to Abolfazl Yaghoubijouybari (Iran)
Jordan Gayle (Manchester)
Round One: lost to 16-2 to Saul Gutierrez (Mexico)
Mahama Cho (Stockwell)
Round one: bt Robelis Despaigne (Cuba) 7-5
Round two: lost 13-8 to Omid Amidi (Iran)
Lyle Walker (Law)
Round one: lost 8-4 to Daniel Ros Gomez (Spain)
Carla Summerhill (Glasgow)
Round One lost 3-1 to Lua Pineiro (Spain)