Updated: Sunday, 19th November 2017 @ 8:06am

Golden performance for Manchester's GB Taekwondo Academy

Golden performance for Manchester's GB Taekwondo Academy

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

One. 

That’s how many Olympic medals Great Britain have won in taekwondo since it became a competitive sport at the Sydney 2000 Games. 

Sarah Stevenson picked up that medal at the most recent Olympics in Beijing, winning a bronze in the 67kg+ weight class. 

It would be safe to say Team GB will be disappointed if the medal tally stays the same after London 2012 given the country’s top fighters’ form over the past year. 

Stevenson won gold at the World Championships in Germany, and was joined on the podium by Michael Harvey and Jade Jones (silver), whilst Martin Stamper picked up a bronze. 

Add to this another twelve medals for elite fighters at top class tournaments throughout 2011 and it is easy to see why there is much optimism for London 2012. 

The GB Taekwondo Academy is based here in Manchester and 16 top class fighters from across the county train here full time in their quest to be world beaters. 

2012 has started brightly with a clean sweep of medals in the men’s -80kg at the German Open after Damon Sansum beat Lutalo Muhammad in the final, after Muhammad knocked out Aaron Cook in the semi finals. 

Jade Jones also claimed a silver in her weight category while junior fighter Jamie Abley also came second, he could be a prospect for the Rio Games in 2016.  

Cook no longer trains at the Academy but is still eligible for Great Britain at continental and international tournaments. 

Damon said: “The size of our elite team is small when you compare it to a place like Iran.  They have different set ups for men and women with a lot more athletes in than we have all together.” 

“The whole team is doing really well - for us to be medalling, I guess it shows the value of quality over quantity.”  

“The team atmosphere is great, we’re all friends away from the Academy. It’s nice to feel part of a winning team.” 

Lutalo points to the funding the sport has received in recent years. 

“A lot of money has been invested in us and the results speak for themselves.  I came from a small club – pretty much just me and my dad touring the circuit – so coming into a set up like this really does help” 

“I’d say team morale is definitely the one thing that has helped me improve most in the time I’ve been here – everyone is pushing everyone else to do better because we all want to do well.”  

Neil Parsley works with GB Taekwondo as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. He has seen a big improvement in his three years with the Academy. 

“There’s definitely been an increase in talent since I started here. After we won no medals at the 2009 World Championships, we knew we had to work hard.” 

“Improved communication between us, the athletes, the medical team and sports science staff – everyone involved has helped.  The athletes have become more experienced – and we’re peaking just at the right time for this four year cycle in Olympic year.” 

Neil believes the future of elite level taekwondo in Britain is bright. 

“Looking ahead to Rio 2016 and the 2020 Games, there’s a lot of talent coming through – some of the squad are ridiculously young – Jade Jones will still be involved, and then you’ve got the likes of Ruebyn Richards, Jamie Abley and Jordan Gayle.” 

“They will benefit from a good performance at London 2012 – now we need to go out there and get the results.”  

He believes the success of Team GB’s taekwondo team would not have been possible without central funding. 

“Sports like taekwondo definitely need funding.  Most sports are professional nowadays – particularly male sport, though the women are catching up.  It’s tough without the money.  We’ve got some world class people working here on the medical and sports science side of things now which obviously is an advantage – this just wouldn’t be possible without the funding.” 

Funding has come to GB Taekwondo from UK Sport to the tune of over £4.8m in this Olympic cycle – up nearly 70% from the Beijing Games. 

Taekwondo’s profile in Manchester is ever rising and can only continue to do so with the arrival of the  European Championships – the first time the tournament has been held in this country. 

UK Sport Performance Advisor, Paul Buxton said: The European Championships, coming up in May, will be the sixth taekwondo event UK Sport has supported in Manchester since 2007, and this will be a fantastic opportunity for our athletes and support staff to experience competing on home soil, so close to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Following the relocation of the GB Academy to its new home in Ten Acres Lane in Spring 2011, which was developed through a partnership between Sports Taekwondo UK, UK Sport, Sport England and Manchester City Council, the team returned from the World Championships with their best ever medal haul, and I am confident that they can carry that success forward this year, into the European Championships, and the London Games.”

Manchester should be proud to be the home of British taekwondo, and any medal at this year’s Olympics should be welcomed as much as any success in the more high profile events.

If this batch of world class fighters can inspire a new generation of Olympians, keep an eye on the Academy’s progress in coming years – kids watching the sport for the first time this summer could be our medal hopes for 2020 and beyond.

Follow Steven Oldham on Twitter - @spoldham