Golden girls Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden will spearhead GB Taekwondo’s 16-strong squad’s challenge at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix at the Copper Box Arena, London on October 20-22.
There are also four locally born stars in the formidable line-up competing at the iconic venue in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, including double Olympic medallist, Lutalo Muhammad and current Grand Prix champion, Mahama Cho.
It’s five years since ‘Headhunter’ Jones became Team GB’s first ever Olympic gold medallist. But the Welsh star still has memorable flashbacks about her gold medal winning performances.
“To be back fighting in London again will be just amazing,” says Jones who successfully defended her -57kg title at Rio 2016. “It will always feel special.
“Winning my first Olympics at just 19 was the best experience I have ever had in my life. I am sure it’s going to be great competing in front of a home crowd again. There is such a good vibe and it’s great to know people have your back.
“It’s our chance to shine and show people what we do behind closed doors. It’s a world class event and all the top people are coming. There are valuable ranking points for Tokyo 2020 and a bit of money is a bonus as well.”
Liverpudlian star Walkden missed selection for London 2012 after recovering from the first of two major knee operations. Since then she has won two World Championship heavyweight titles plus a bronze medal at Rio 2016.
“To perform in front of a home crowd, me and Jade love it,” says Walkden. “We are like show ponies deep down,” she laughs. “All our friends and family can come who don’t usually get chance to see us though it does mean I hear my dad shouting across the hall:”:no mercy, no mercy."
This will be the fourth WGP staged in the UK and the first in the capital, giving the GB team a great chance especially for London boys: Cho-Grand Prix champion in Rabat last month-Muhammad, Walthamstow’s Lutalo Muhammad, Plaistow’s Christian McNeish and Max Cater to turn on the style for home spectators. McNeish is one of four wild card picks together with Grand Prix newcomers: Rebecca McGowan, Taylor Goodall and Hassan Haider.
GLL, the UK’s largest leisure charitable social enterprise, operate the Copper Box Arena on behalf of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and help support Lutalo Muhammad and Christian McNeish through the GLL Sport Foundation which helps support over 35 British taekwondo athletes and since it’s inception the has provided over 13,000 athletes across different disciplines award bursaries totalling over £7.6 million of support.
Tickets are now on sale for the Grand Prix and the World Para Taekwondo Championships at the same venue on Thursday, October 19.
Friday, October 20:
-68kg: Peter Longobardi-Radford (Rye), Christian McNeish (Plaistow), Bradly Sinden (Doncaster)
+80kg: Mahama Cho (Stockwell)
-67kg: Lauren Williams (Newport)
Saturday, October 21:
-58kg: Max Cater (Southampton), Hassan Haider (Falkirk)
-57kg: Rachelle Booth (Wigan), Jade Jones (Flint).
+67kg: Rebecca McGowan (Dunfermline), Jade Slavin (Consett), Bianca Walkden (Liverpool)
Sunday, October 22:
-80kg: Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow), Damon Sansum (Elgin)
-49kg:Taylor Goodall (Runcorn), Charlie Maddock (Stoke)