Jade Jones targets gold at Manchester GP, to start tomorrow
Olympic champion Jade Jones hopes to end her search for a World Taekwondo Grand Prix gold medal at this week’s competition in Manchester.
The Welsh fighter was the runner-up at last year’s -57kg event and was second at August’s Grand Prix in Kazakhstan.
Jones is part of a 14-strong British squad, which also includes London 2012 bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad.
“I’ve got so close so many times,” said Jones, 21. “Hopefully I’ll finally get that gold in front of the home crowd.”
British fighters in Manchester:
– Friday: Stella Whitehead (-67kg); Jade Slavin (+67kg); Mahama Cho, Lyle Walker (+87kg).
– Saturday: Asia Bailey (-49kg); Feyi Pearce (-58kg); Lutalo Muhammad, Damon Sansum, Andy Deer, Aaron Cook – Isle of Man – (-80kg)
– Sunday: Rachelle Booth, Jade Jones (-57kg); Jordan Gayle, Mike Harvey, Martin Stamper (-68kg)
The World Grand Prix series began life with the inaugural competition in Manchester last year and in addition to Kazakhstan, the Chinese city of Suzhou has also hosted an event in 2014.
Results in each count towards securing berths at the 2016 Rio Olympics, with all fighters ranked in the top six at the end of the qualification period in late 2015 guaranteed a place at the Games.
“The grands prix are hard and really challenging on the body,” Jones told BBC Sport.
“I didn’t do many competitions before London 2012 and just picked a few to peak at, but I’ve had to change my mindset – get in there and have a scrap – and it seems to be working now.”
Muhammad, 23, is hoping to recapture the form that took him to gold in Manchester last year, having missed out on medals at the last two grand prix events.
“I’ve had a few learning experiences and haven’t had the results I wanted,” said Muhammad, who believes team-mate Damon Sansum will be a big threat in Manchester.
“I’m the reigning champion though, I feel confident and am determined to put in a performance.”
Heavyweight team-mate Mahama Cho, 25, who also secured victory at Manchester 2013, added: “That gold medal gave me so much confidence.
“I feel so strong right now and know I can get out there and smash the opposition again.”
Martin Stamper, 28, has struggled for form since narrowly missing out on a -68kg bronze medal at London 2012.
The Liverpool-born fighter feels that now his daughter, Ava, has started school his taekwondo performances will begin to improve again.
“It was really hard looking after her and doing training so I ended up missing quite a few sessions,” Stamper told BBC Sport.
“I thought I could still compete at the same level but I couldn’t. Since she’s gone to school full-time, though, I’ve been able to train more and feel ready to step it up again.”
European champion Bianca Walkden, 23, misses out on the event as she continues her rehabilitation following a knee ligament injury.
Source: Nick Hope (BBC)