Former World kick-boxing champion Damon Sansum together with Ruebyn Richards, a former junior European taekwondo champion have joined the British Taekwondo team’s elite academy in Manchester having successfully graduated from the Talent 2012 programme.
Sansum (Elgin) and Richards (Nottingham) were among over 1,000 participants who earlier this year responded to the ‘Fighting Chance’ initiative, developed by Sport Taekwondo UK in partnership with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, aimed at uncovering talented athletes with the potential to reach the podium in 2012 and at future Games.
Both have had less than six months with the academy as members of a select pool of ‘talent’ athletes whom Sport Taekwondo UK performances coaches have sought to progress and develop into medal winning competitors. In that time Sansum won his first competitive taekwondo medal at last month’s French Open in Paris and, with Richards, now joins an elite squad that includes Beijing bronze medallist Sarah Stevenson and world no. 1 Aaron Cook.
Gary Hall, Sport Taekwondo UK’s performance director, said: “Both Damon and Ruebyn have done tremendously well in their short time with the academy and have adapted well to the demands of being full time athletes. They have both shown that they have the potential to not only push for a place in the British team in 2012 but also to reach the podium and it is a very exciting and important boost to our academy as the Games draw closer.”
Fellow Talent programme athletes Sophie Dickson (Liverpool ) and Andrew Deer (Wrexham) have all been identified as 2016/2020 potential athletes and will join a new Talent Development programme early in the new year whilst Lauren Price (Caerphilly) has chosen to pursue a career in Women’s Boxing.
Sport Taekwondo UK are also working with Sport England to roll out new development initiatives for taekwondo in 2011 aimed at ensuring that that there is continuity for the sport and its emerging athletes, beyond the 2012 Games.
Paul Mullan, Lead Talent Identification Scientist with the UK Talent Team, said: "It is almost a year to the day that the hunt for an Olympic champion through this Talent Transfer project went live. Damon and Ruebyn joining the Taekwondo’s Elite Academy within this critical 12 month window is a significant milestone and combined with their performances at recent events, it is clear that they are still on path with a chance for 2012.
"Since the public campaign and the busy first round of assessment events, the coaching team at Sports Taekwondo UK alongside their EIS specialists in Strength and Conditioning, Performance Analysis and Physiotherapy have worked hard to create the optimal performance environment that has enabled this transfer into the WTF code of Taekwondo. This team effort have been a significant factor in this project and will continue to be leading into 2011 which will be a critical year for these athletes."