London 2012 Olympic gold medallist, Jade Jones, has welcomed a major new global taekwondo event coming to Britain at the end of this year.
Jones, Britain's first ever Olympic taekwondo champion, will be one of the stars at the inaugural WTF World Grand Prix when it is hosted in Manchester, the home of GB Taekwondo, from 13 to 15 December.
She will be joined by nearly 300 of the world’s top players across the eight Olympic weight categories, all competing for vital Olympic qualification points as the road to Rio 2016 commences.
The WTF World Grand Prix, part of UK Sport’s £27 million National Lottery funded Gold Event Series, is one of a number of international sporting events within the series to be hosted in Manchester this year, others include the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Rugby League World Cup Final and the PSA Men's World Squash Championship.
The Gold Event Series aims to bring over 70 of the world’s most prestigious events to the UK in the next six years.
Three other World Taekwondo Grand Prixs will be staged around the world next year, leading up to a Grand Prix Final at the end of 2014.
Jones, 20, currently in training for next month's World Championships in Mexico, said: "It's a huge step forward for the sport. As an athlete, it’s important that we have the chance to compete regularly against the very best in the world and the Grand Prix series will give us those opportunities. So, it's fantastic news to have such an exciting event series being launched here in the UK.
“It’s going to be great to compete in front of a passionate home crowd again and I can’t wait until December.”
UK Sport Director of Major Events and International Relations, Simon Morton, said: “We are honoured the UK has been awarded the inaugural WTF Taekwondo Grand Prix and are confident that the event, to be staged in Manchester’s fantastic city centre venue – Manchester Central - will be a huge success.
"UK Sport’s investment into this brand new World Series event, through our National Lottery funded Gold Event Series, demonstrates our commitment to building an outstanding programme of major international sporting events for the UK following the incredible success of London 2012.
"The strong partnership which has developed between GB Taekwondo, the World Taekwondo Federation and UK Sport is testament to the huge success of the sport at the London 2012 Olympics which catapulted athletes such as Jade Jones and Lutalo Muhammad into the limelight.
"With only the best athletes in the world competing for Olympic ranking points, this event really will provide a stage to inspire the next generation.”
Chungwon Choue, president of the World Taekwondo Federation, said: "At London 2012, we witnessed some of the best taekwondo action that the sport has ever seen.
"We want to ensure that this standard not only continues, but that we build up on it. We are confident that the WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix will do just that.”
Each Grand Prix will feature the top 35 ranked athletes in each of the four Olympic taekwondo weight categories for both male and female.
The rankings will be determined before each competition and the host nation of each competition will be allowed to add one athlete, per weight category for both male and female.
The top four ranked athletes qualify directly to the quarterfinals, while eight of the remaining 32 athletes are seeded based on their rank.
The Grand Prix Final will take the top eight ranked athletes from each respective weight category who will be seeded based on their rank.
Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said:"As the home of GB Taekwondo, Manchester is an ideal location for the first ever World Taekwondo Grand Prix.
“The event will see Britain’s best Taekwondo players from the fantastic GB Taekwondo Academy in East Manchester competing against the world's elite and is certain to be inspirational - building on the interest developed in the sport during the 2012 Olympic Games.”
Adrian Tranter, British Taekwondo President, said: “This is a ground breaking event for WTF and it is a great honour for us to be entrusted with hosting the inaugural Grand Prix in Manchester. I wish to thank the WTF Council for their support.
"We have the right venue, the right city, the support of our funding partners and the right people to deliver it. I have the utmost confidence that we will succeed.
"The British taekwondo family helped make the Olympic Games in London, and just before that the European Championships in Manchester, the best events in Taekwondo history.
"We are a Taekwondo nation with passionate fans. I know they will be eager to come along again and watch the best taekwondo athletes in the world showcase their talent at an event that signals an exciting new era for the sport here in the UK and across the globe.”