Fighting Chance uncovers 15 future Taekwondo stars

Published 4 July 2013

fighting_chance

This week 15 athletes have been selected for the GB Taekwondo Academy after being identified for the future by the first talent identification programme since London 2012 - Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil.

The successful athletes fought off competition from around 500 initial applicants to the scheme, which was run by UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and GB Taekwondo.

Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil was a nationwide search for high achieving martial artists with the potential to transfer to Olympic WTF Taekwondo and make an impact at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The innovative programme was first run in 2009 and discovered Olympic bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad, along with former kickboxing world champion Damon Sansum, who will be part of the GB squad at the upcoming World Taekwondo Championships in Puebla, Mexico (15-21 July).

World Taekwondo champion Sarah Stevenson, who announced her retirement from the sport earlier this year to become a High Performance coach with GB Taekwondo, has been closely involved in every step of Fighting Chance.

She said: ‘Fighting Chance is such an exciting initiative to be involved in. The final stage ‘boot camp’ was intense and really highlighted some very impressive athletes which we can now transfer into our  World Class Programme in Manchester. The level was to a very high standard and just showed us the range of skills that are transferable from other martial arts to the sport of Taekwondo. We are eager for the start date and want to just get cracking with the new group of athletes.’

Of the 15 athletes selected, nine are from a kickboxing background, while six have transferred from non-Olympic ITF Taekwondo. 

In addition, three junior athletes (Ellis Blake, Liam Wise and Tiegan Flay) have been invited to join the GB Taekwondo Talent Development programme, meaning they will take part in training camps and have the opportunity to trial for international competitions.

Senior Talent Scientist with the UK Talent Team (UK Sport and EIS) Ian Yates has overseen the entire process and was encouraged by the outcome.

He said: “To find 15 athletes of such a high calibre is a real triumph for the Fighting Chance programme – and a huge step up from the first initiative. The athletes come from different martial arts backgrounds, but each bring a unique skill set to WTF Taekwondo.

“This is only the beginning of their journey and they will need to work extremely hard to adapt to the World Class environment in Manchester – and step up to the challenge of winning Gold in Rio!”

The successful athletes will join the GB Taekwondo Academy in Autumn, following the current senior squad’s return from the World Championships in Mexico.

GB Taekwondo Performance Director Gary Hall said: “The Fighting Chance programme has been hugely successful to date and now the selected athletes have a great opportunity to show why they are worthy of a place on the World Class Programme and ultimately to challenge for a place at Rio 2016.

“The opportunity for GB Taekwondo to compete for a maximum of eight medals at the 2016 Olympic Games means there is now a real need for us to strengthen the ‘athlete pool’ within each Olympic weight category. This was fundamental within our Rio plan and Fighting Chance provides us with one route towards giving us that strength in depth across the Olympic weight classes.

“In addition to the Fighting Chance cohort we have WTF athletes Ben Haines, Asia Bailey, Georgia Barnes and Dominic Brookes all coming through the GB Talent Development pathway to join the Academy, giving us a great platform to build on in this Rio 2016 cycle, and beyond.”

Since 2007, UK Sport-backed talent identification programmes have worked in partnership with 20 Olympic and Paralympic sports and over 100 World Class coaches during eight National athlete recruitment campaigns. These projects have resulted in over 100 athletes being selected by sports into the World Class system with more than 100 international medals won.

Twelve identified athletes from the campaigns represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, including rower Helen Glover, who was part of the crew which won Team GB’s first gold medal of the Games and Lutalo Muhammad, who won Olympic taekwondo bronze.

Fighting Chance athletes joining the GB Taekwondo Academy

Rachelle Booth,        17 years old, ITF Taekwondo         
Darren Chapman,     23, Kickboxing                         
Danny Dowling,        21, ITF Taekwondo                                  
Nicole Huntington,     16, Kickboxing                         
India Isles,              20, ITF Taekwondo                                  
Murdo Mackenzie,     21, Kickboxing                         
Sarah McMahon,       18, ITF Taekwondo                                  
Christian McNeish,     16, Kickboxing                         
Rachel Morning,        19, ITF Taekwondo                                  
Taylor Shaw,           18, Kickboxing                      
Thomas Smith,         19, Kickboxing                         
Tony Stephenson,     21, Kickboxing                        
Lauren Williams,       13, Kickboxing                         
Charlie Maddock,      17, Kickboxing                         
Lyle Walker,            17, ITF Taekwondo                   

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