Bianca Walkden may well have achieved a childhood dream when she claimed a world title back in May, but Liverpool’s taekwondo starlet insists the job is only half done with the Rio Olympics just around the corner.
The 24-year-old became only the second Briton to win a gold medal at the World Taekwondo Championships when she beat France’s Gwladys Épangue in the final of the +73kg category in Russia earlier this year.
The triumph was huge for Walkden – who now trains at the GB Taekwondo Academy in Manchester – who showed she had fully shaken off the effects of an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained towards the end of last year.
And after also striking European Championship gold in 2014, the starlet looks on track to book her spot on the plane to Rio by the end of the year after missing out on selection for the London Olympics in 2012.
Up next for Walkden is the third leg of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series, which comes to Manchester later this month after events in Russia and Turkey, and she admits that her confidence is sky high going into the final stage of her Olympic qualification campaign.
“Winning that first world championship of course meant a lot to me,” she said. “But more than that, it also gave me so much more self-belief after I had ruptured my ACL.
“So to come back and win with not even a fully fixed knee was a huge boost, and makes me think I can achieve big things next year at the Olympics.
“It was certainly a milestone towards Rio, and so is the Manchester Grand Prix as it is worth 40 ranking points towards the top six qualification spots at the end of December.
“It’s a massive competition and I’m really looking forward to it, and then from then on hopefully I can qualify for Rio at the final Grand Prix in Mexico.”
Walkden has been on good form so far this year in the World Series, claiming bronze in Russia before going one better and nabbing silver in Turkey.
But with a raucous home support behind her, Walkden is only interested in one colour of medal in Manchester.
“Absolutely I have a lot of confidence that I can go out and deliver in Manchester, but I really want gold this time rather than just a medal.
“I know it will be tough to do and I’ll have five tough fights, but fingers crossed.
“To be able to say I’d qualified by the end of the year would be a massive relief, and it would be my first Olympics having missed out on London.
“Getting there is the first step – if I don’t get to Rio I can’t achieve a gold medal there. So
The World Taekwondo Grand Prix – featuring the very best Olympic and world champions from across the game – is coming to Manchester on October 16-18. Tickets on sale at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/WTGP