Amy Truesdale can’t wait for her fourth World Para-Taekwondo Championship to start at London’s Copper Box Arena tomorrow (Thursday, October 19) and not just because she is one of the favourites for gold.
At the three previous events the Chester born, world number one has been Great Britain’s only representative.
But with Para-Taekwondo set to make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Truesdale has new found team mates hoping to stake a claim for selection in three years’ time.
“After riding solo all this time, it feels like we have a proper team,” says the 28 year-old world number one.
“It feels like a proper team now and it’s been great to see more people at training.
“But it will still be tough,” added Truesdale who claimed a bronze medal on her World Championship debut eight years ago. “I have noticed a lot more competitors in my weight division this time.
“However, after fighting overseas at my previous World Championships, I’m excited to finally get a chance to showcase Para-Taekwondo to a home audience.”
Truesdale, who won her only world title so far in 2014, is joined by four team mates who all train at the National Taekwondo Centre in Manchester: Matthew Bush, 28, Katie Eley, 16, Joseph Lane, 19, and 25-year-old Leif Thobroe.
For Eley from Port Talbot, the World Championships are her first ever para taekwondo tournament.
“I was shocked when I got selected,” admitted Eley, a triplet with two brothers plus an older sibling. “I have only been doing taekwondo for three months.
“I started off doing javelin with Disability Sports Wales.” Both former rugby union prospect, Thobroe and heavyweight Bush also hail from Wales.
Thobroe lost the use of his right arm after suffering a severe spinal injury playing rugby two years ago.
Bush also has an arm impairment but hasn’t lost his sense of humour. “I tell everyone it was bitten off by a shark,” he laughs. “That usually makes people sit up and take note.”
Thobroe from Cardiff and Bush from Haverfordwest have only ever done one taekwondo competition before.
The fifth and final GB athlete is Londoner Lane, a talented footballer who previously enjoyed international recognition as a member of Great Britain Amputee football team.
He’s also had previous ITF Taekwondo experience, inspired after watching Bruce Lee movies with his brother.
“As a squad, we are very inexperienced,” he admits. “But this is going to be a great tournament to learn new things and it will be a test to see how far we gave come.”
Britain’s five Para stars will be among more than 200 athletes representing 59 nations-a record field for the Para Worlds. Two years ago, the event in Turkey attracted 118 athletes from 34 countries.
But the sport’s elevation to Paralympic status has ensured greater numbers in London and more cosmopolitan field.
*Watch Olympic medallists Jade Jones, Mahama Cho and Bianca Walkden compete at the London edition of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix, which takes place in the Copper Box Arena from 20-22 October.
For the first time, Britain’s leading Paralympic star, Amy Truesdale, will also be battling the world’s best at the World Para Taekwondo Championships alongside newcomers, Leif Thobroe, Matt Bush, Joseph Lane and Katie Eley on October 19.
Tickets available here.