Fighting Chance seeking heavyweights for Rio

Published 17 December 2014

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GB Taekwondo has launched a nationwide talent spotting initiative aiming to turn martial arts fighters into potential Olympic champions.

And Rio 2016 might not be too soon for some successful candidates as the sport aims to match and better the gold and bronze medals won by Jade Jones and Lutalo Muhammad at London 2012.

This is the third time in five years the successful 'Fighting Chance' programme has sought talented athletes dreaming of representing Great Britain at an Olympic Games.

Having run the first two initiatives, UK Sport has this time seconded an English Institute of Sport Performance Pathway Scientist to GB Taekwondo to advise the sport on the campaign.

Londoner Muhammad, 2014 European Championship silver medallist, Damon Sansum and newly crowned Commonwealth champion, Andrew Deer were from the inaugural 'Fighting Chance' intake.

Welsh teenager Lauren Williams, the current WTF World Junior champion, Youth Olympics bronze medallist, Christian McNeish, and Commonwealth gold medallist, Rachelle Booth, have already graduated with honours from the second, 'Battle4Brazil' intake.

However, unlike the previous two schemes, this latest initiative is specifically seeking athletes for the heavyweight categories.

This presents an opportunity for high achieving kick boxers, Thai boxers, mixed martial arts exponents and karate experts.

In addition, athletes already well-schooled in WTF style taekwondo are not excluded from this new project as the sport’s popularity continues to grow, boosted by its Olympic status and the introduction of the WTF World Grand Prix series.

"In Mahama Cho and Bianca Walkden we have got two outstanding heavyweights in our World Class Performance programme," explained GB Performance Director, Gary Hall.

“After working with the last two Fighting Chance initiatives, it is clear ITF Taekwondo and kick boxing is where the majority of our talent transfer athletes are coming from.

“But having followed karate, mixed martial arts, Thai boxing I know there is other talent out there that hasn’t yet been discovered.

"We want heavyweights because there is a huge opportunity to become Olympic champion in a short space of time. There are spaces available because there are serious medal opportunities.”

Sarah Stevenson, 31, remains the only Briton to win a heavyweight taekwondo Olympic medal, capturing bronze at Beijing 2008. The three time senior world champion is now a GB Taekwondo coach and featured prominently in the last search for a star.

"'Fighting Chance' does produce results; we just need heavier people to apply and get involved," confirmed Stevenson.

"If you kick in your sport and you think there is a possibility you could make the grade, just apply.”

Stevenson fought at -67kg (or approximately 10 stones 5lbs) while the heavyweight requirement for men is +80kg or 12st 5lbs. Athletes aged between 14-26 are invited to apply.

The application deadline is February 2, 2015 with phase one talent assessment, testing dates in Manchester scheduled for February 21 and 22. A week long residential boot camp for successful applicants will follow.

For further information on how to apply please go to the GB Taekwondo website.

Follow @GBTaekwondo on Twitter and Facebook.

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