'Battle4Brazil' campaign is underway
Around 100 of the UK’s most promising martial artists put their skills to the test this weekend (23-24 Feb) at Phase One of Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil – the first talent ID campaign UK Sport has launched to recruit future Taekwondo athletes since London 2012.
The athletes were from a range of martial arts, including karate, kickboxing and ITF taekwondo and came to Manchester with a shared goal; to one day compete for Great Britain in taekwondo at the Olympic Games.
Senior Talent Scientist with the UK Talent Team Ian Yates said: “We’ve had a range of martial artists who all come from sports where kicking is a big requirement. As we saw in London 2012, these skills can provide an athlete with a huge advantage in Olympic taekwondo and we’re keen to uncover athletes who can readily kick to the head in order to score maximum points.”
Athletes took part in a series of assessments before taking to the mat for a three round, six minute fight under the watchful eye of, among others, Beijing Olympic taekwondo bronze medallist Sarah Stevenson and GB Taekwondo Performance Director Gary Hall, who observed their technical skills and tactical awareness.
Stevenson explained what they were looking for: “First and foremost you’ve got to have a really good attitude and show us that you want to be here. To be a good taekwondo athlete you’ve got to demonstrate that fighting spirit. You also need to be able to show a good variation of technique and have a strong high kick.”
Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil is a nationwide search for talented male and female athletes across all weight categories and follows the 2009 Fighting Chance programme that discovered London 2012 Olympic taekwondo bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad and recent Sweden Open gold medallist Damon Sansum, a former world kickboxing champion.
Sansum, who observed the fights throughout the weekend, shared his experiences of Fighting Chance: “I went through the same process as the guys here. I came from a kickboxing background, and then went through the X Factor style trials and was accepted into the GB Academy, where I now train fulltime.
“I had to adapt and change my style so it’s been quite a journey, but it’s been life changing. It was important to use the strengths I had from kickboxing to help me stand out from the taekwondo style and there are still things that I’m learning even now.”
GB Taekwondo achieved two medals at London 2012, but Performance Director Gary Hall is keen to further increase the talent pool and said Talent ID was a unique approach that is fast becoming a focus the world over.
He said: “Taekwondo is going through a period of change, with the new rules allowing people to kick to the head, it means more people can transfer into our sport. Other countries are now asking us how we’re doing this and it’s becoming a big focus across the world of taekwondo.
“We do believe that if we can pick out some talent here, with the Programme we’ve now got, supported by UK Sport and our other stakeholders, we can only go on to greater success and Rio gold is a possibility.”
The athletes hoping to achieve that goal are all champions in their own sports but many had never tried taekwondo before this weekend.
Joby Wilson, 19, started karate at the age of seven and last year won a world bronze medal. Joby, who had no previous experience of taekwondo, said although the new techniques had felt “a bit weird”, the day had gone well for him, saying ultimately he would “love an Olympic medal.”
Charlie Maddock, 17, has won seven world junior kickboxing titles but Fighting Chance was the first time she had tried taekwondo too.
She said: “It was different, but fun, it’s been good to see the different sides to martial arts. It was difficult not to punch to the head because that’s what I’m used to. This has been a new experience for me. I’d like to be able go to the Olympics one day.”
The second testing weekend of Phase One will take place next weekend (2-3 March), before successful athletes are invited back to Phase Two of the selection process later in the year.
In line with ‘Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil’, GB Taekwondo is also trying to recruit high performance coaches who are capable of helping with the development of their athletes. See the requirements here:
‘Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil’ Video
Source: UK Sport