The second phase of Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil took place last weekend (13-14 Apr) in Manchester as 80 taekwondo hopefuls attempted to prove they have what it takes to make the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil is a nationwide search for talented male and female athletes across all taekwondo weight categories, run in conjunction by GB Taekwondo, UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport.
The Fighting Chance programme was first run in 2009 and discovered London 2012 Olympic taekwondo bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad, as well as two-time Taekwondo Open champion and former kickboxing world champion Damon Sansum.
Having made it through Phase One, athletes from a range of martial arts returned to Manchester to go through a more detailed investigation into their potential.
The session included competing in a fight tournament under the observation of GB Taekwondo’s high performance coaches, as well as undertaking assessments on key areas including kick efficiency, robustness, coachability, power and agility.
Athletes also heard from Fighting Chance graduate Damon Samsun and Olympic and World medallist Sarah Stevenson about their sporting journeys.
GB Taekwondo Performance Director Gary Hall commented: “Phase Two of the Fighting Chance programme was another really big step towards finding talented athletes from other combat sports and martial arts that could go on to win medals in Rio.
“The quality and commitment from all the athletes in attendance was hugely encouraging and it has provided the coaching team and I with real confidence that this programme will unearth some genuine British talent who can challenge for major medal success in the future.”
With a background in the ITF code of taekwondo, 15-year-old Tiegan Flay from Newton Abott said Fighting Chance had been a great opportunity.
She said: “When I found out that I’d got through to Phase Two, I was overwhelmed and excited. I’ve been training harder for WTF. Phase Two is more technical and the feedback from the coaches has been really useful. I enjoyed the workshops and found them really insightful.”
Another trialling athlete, Rachelle Booth, 17, from Wigan said: “I have really enjoyed my experience of Fighting Chance so far and my ambition is to get through to boot camp and then the GB Academy. I see it as a natural career progression of getting to the Games and winning a medal.
“When I found out that I had got through to Phase Two it felt like I had really achieved something. More is expected of you in Phase Two and is more performance focused.”
Athletes who are successful from Phase Two will be invited to take part in a week long boot camp from 14-18 May, with the ultimate ambition to earn a place in the GB Taekwondo Academy.
Senior Talent Scientist with the UK Talent Team Ian Yates said: “The quality and quantity of athletes we’ve assessed at Fighting Chance has really impressed us. Indeed, we have seen twice as many at this stage in comparison to 2009 which reaffirms the value of talent transfer in WTF taekwondo. We have also identified a competitive group of women across targeted weight categories which was a key objective for this year’s campaign.
“It will be exciting to see how they fare at Phase Three – a week-long boot camp designed to confirm their potential to develop as elite fighters. Whilst they have a long way to go, based on the coaches’ expert opinions and our assessments to date I’m optimistic that we have unearthed athletes with the potential to be successful in Rio and beyond.”