Fighting Chance athletes flying high

Published 1 April 2014


Just six months into their Taekwondo careers, the athletes who came to the sport through talent transfer initiative Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil have been making their mark on the world stage.

Fighting Chance was a nationwide search for talented martial arts athletes, run by GB Taekwondo, UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in 2013.

More than 500 athletes initially applied and after a six-month selection process, five athletes transferred from non-Olympic ITF Taekwondo, with another 10 drawn from a kickboxing background.

The youngest member to join the GB Taekwondo Academy in Manchester, Lauren Williams, was recently crowned -59kg Junior World Champion at the WTF World Junior Championships in Taipei, storming to victory in the final with a 17-8 winning margin over her Korean opponent.

A former junior world champion in kickboxing, Williams has made an immediate impact in WTF Taekwondo after making the switch, also winning a silver medal at the 2014 Trelleborg Open in Sweden.

Fellow former junior kickboxing world champion, 16-year-old Christian McNeish, will this summer represent Great Britain at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, having reached the semi-finals at the recent qualification event in Taipei.

McNeish will aim to follow in the footsteps of Jade Jones, who triumphed at the Youth Olympics two years before her London 2012 Olympic victory.

Other notable performances by Fighting Chance athletes over the past six months include a bronze medal for Charlie Maddock at the 2013 French Open, gold medals for Lyle Walker and Christian McNeish at the British Masters, gold medals for Tony Stephenson and Tom Smith, and silver medals for Danny Dowling and Murdo Mackenzie at the NTC Nottingham Open.

GB Taekwondo Performance Director Gary Hall said: "We are delighted with the success of the junior team at the World Championship and it only serves to underline the importance of our talent development and particularly our talent identification initiatives.

"The ability to identify, recruit, convert and develop athletes from outside of taekwondo is crucial to the sport at this time when the emerging talent pool is not as big as we would like.

"Whilst our talent pathway is also generating medal winners such as World Junior Champion Abigail Stones, we are keen to explore other talent ID initiatives that will provide us with both strength and depth in weight categories which provide strong medal opportunities in and the chance to emulate the success of Lauren and Christian."

Since Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil, the Performance Pathway Team (UK Sport and EIS) has launched Girls4Gold: Canoeing and Power2Podium: Skeleton, seeking talented athletes with the potential to become Olympic champions in targeted sports.

Previous campaigns have discovered athletes like Sochi 2014 Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold (Girls4Gold), London 2012 rowing champion Helen Glover (Sporting Giants) and Lutalo Muhammad (Fighting Chance 2010).

Head of Performance Pathways at UK Sport Natalie Dunman added: "It is always fantastic to see talent transfer athletes making such an impact in a new sport, especially in such a short space of time. It is a testament to the hard work of these athletes, and the world class environment at GB Taekwondo, that they have been able to thrive.

"We have now assessed over 8,000 athletes through talent campaigns like Fighting Chance, with over 100 athletes joining the world class system. We are committed to working tirelessly to ensure even more athletes with potential find the right sport for them whilst simultaneously supporting NGBs to develop more sustainable performance pathways."


Funding Partners
  • DCMS
  • TNL partners
Official Partners
  • BAES logo
  • BUPA
  • IHG logo
Strategic Partners
  • British Olympic Association
  • Paralympics GB
  • Sport England
  • Sport Northern Ireland
  • Sport Wales
  • Sport Scotland