Newham duo among GB Taekwondo group
PUBLISHED: 18:56 23 March 2017
Bangura and McNeish start full-time training
Great Britain Taekwondo chief Gary Hall has described the latest intake of Fighting Chance graduates “as one of the strongest we have had.”
Forest Gate’s Jonathan Bangura, 18, and Plaistow’s Isobel McNeish, 17, are among the group, which includes a number of major medal winners from World Taekwondo Federation junior tournaments and started full-time training earlier this month.
Rio 2016 silver medallist, Lutalo Muhammad plus 2015 World Championship 2015 medallists, Damon Sansum and Rachelle Booth are former Fighting Chance graduates.
The initiative, delivered by GB Taekwondo in partnership with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport is aimed at fast tracking 15-24 year olds into the world of high-performance sport and is now in its fourth edition.
“After the Rio Olympic cycle we began another search for athletes through the Fighting Chance initiative,” explained GB Taekwondo Performance Director Hall.
“Of the 282 applicants we narrowed it down to 40. Those 40 were all screened during a long boot camp before we arrived at the 14 who are now joining the Academy.
“This group is really strong. We have done it four times and this got to be one of the strongest intakes we have had
“They will go on a three-month programme, including participation in the Austrian Open to see how they perform, If they are really making progress in the system then we will continue with them.”
Luke Jones, teenage brother of double Olympic champion, Jade Jones, is one of 14 survivors from 282 who originally applied to join the GB Academy in Manchester.
As well as bearing the family name Jones, 18, from Flint has other similar qualities to big sister, Jade, according to Hall.
“Luke is a good character, very much like his sister,” confirmed Hall. “He is fighter which is one of the characteristics we looked for.
“He hasn’t got the tactical game finesses his sister has but he has a lot of the basic ingredients.”
Hall is also delighted to see Leah Moorby, 17, and 16-year-old Simone Abley take another step on their taekwondo journey.
“Both have already excelled in the younger age groups. and both have committed a lot of time to the junior development programme. This is the next leg of their development journey.”
Moorby from Keighley is a former European Junior bronze medallist and GB Taekwondo’s 2015 Junior Female athlete of the year. Abley, who hails from a family of taekwondo players, has twice represented GB at the Junior World Championships.
“I am delighted to have this opportunity to work with GB Taekwondo as a full time athlete,” she said.
“This opportunity will enable me to move towards my goal of competing at the highest levels of taekwondo as a senior athlete.
“I have spent time working with GB Taekwondo as a junior development athlete and cannot wait for the next phase of training and stepping up to work full time within the GB Taekwondo programme.”
Fighting Chance also offers youngsters from other martial arts background opportunity to shoot for gold at Tokyo 2020.
Dereece Williams is a multiple World, European and British kick boxing champion from Wolverhampton and said: ”I am nervous about adapting to a different sport but excited at the opportunity given as I believe I will bring something different to Taekwondo.”
Emelye O’Brien from Bradford is a former European karate gold medallist while Isobel McNeish, sister of 2017 German Open silver GBT Christian McNeish, has twice won Junior kick boxing World Championship bronze medals.
Athletes, male: Jonathan Bangura (+80kg); Jacob Barnett (-68kg); Alex Golding (-58kg); Hassan Haider (-58kg); Luke Jones (-58kg); Joshua Levers (-58kg); Jack Spall (+80kg); Dereece Williams (-68kg); female: Simone Abley (-57kg); Courtney Eardley (-49kg); Isobel McNeish (-57kg); Leah Moorby (-57kg); Emelye O’Brien (-67kg); Pooja Vadhva (-49kg).