McGowan and Cunningham punch Olympic tickets in Manchester

Team GB added two new athletes to its team as Rebecca McGowan and Caden Cunningham qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games during the last day of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Manchester.

The only British medal of the day was won by McGowan as she easily made it to the grand final against South Korea’s Dabin Lee but she had to withdraw due to an injury and settle for silver.

McGowan, 23, capped off a stellar year which saw her win the silver medal at the World Championships and of course, lock that place for Paris in what would be the Scot’s first Olympic outing.

Participating in the same category two-time Olympic medalist Bianca Cook couldn’t get past the quarterfinals where she lost to France’s Solene Avoulette and finished in fifth place.

“I’m obviously devastated. It’s been really tough for me,

“I don’t think no one actually knows what I have been through this year. I missed two Grand Prix, I missed half of the World Championships, where I wasn’t that good, and then to be able to have six weeks of training; it’s a bit unfair, but, that’s life,

“I haven’t been able to train and be the same, so it’s been very difficult, but it’s sad because it’s not the real Bianca,

“I have been trapped in a different body for a long time and just wasn’t meant to be and hopefully, I can keep pushing forward and be better,” Cook frustrated said after her quarterfinal loss.

Cunningham walked out of the mat frustrated following a surprise loss to Croatia’s Pasko Bozic in the round of 16, but little did he know at that time that all his immediate opponents in the Olympic ranking had the same fate, which meant no one couldn’t throw him out of the top five.

That means that the 20-year-old Huddersfield native will be on the plane to Paris next summer for his first Olympic Games.

“Today, I just wasn’t good enough, I had to be better,

“These days really, really annoy me. That’s why training will get a bit more venomous. I will have to just juice, the motivation I already have, and then kick more people in the first face next year,” Caden said emotionally just after the fight.

A tough 2023 for Lauren Williams concluded with a loss in the round of 16 of the women’s -67kg category as the 2020 Olympic silver medalist lost narrowly to 2022 World Champion and eventual winner in Manchester, Sarah Chaari of Belgium.

Williams, 24, ruptured her hamstring tendon during a competition this June, had surgery, and came back just three months later. The Welsh athlete may have left the Manchester competition with disappointment but will have one final chance to qualify for Paris at the European Qualification Tournament in March.

Image credit : Sam Mellish

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