Team GB taekwondo young star Christian McNeish claimed his first European Championships gold with an impressive victory over the home favourite in Kazan, Russia at the weekend.
The 21-year-old Londoner, who is based in Manchester, defeated Russian Sarmat Tcakoev 28-21 to clinch the -68kg title and become the first ever British man to win the category.
McNeish, who is undefeated in his last five competitions, was one of seven British athletes to medal at his nation’s most successful European Championships, with Jade Jones and Lauren Williams claiming gold, Bianca Walkden bagging silver and Jordyn Smith, Bradly Sinden and Peter Radford taking bronze.
Former kickboxer McNeish, who took up taekwondo at the age of 16, put his recent form down to a new found relaxed attitude as the Newham-born kicker targets future Olympic and World Championship success.
“I am happy with myself and my performances and I think that is just because I have just enjoyed it.
“I haven’t cared about it too much. I have just gone with the flow, trained and been myself. I am easy, I like to chill, that’s how it has worked out for me by being myself.”
“Before I was feeling pressured and it comes with experience as well. I wasn’t as experienced as I am now, and I was out of competition through injuries.
“I went away and worked with my coach, found out what was best for me, what was throwing me off and take that out of it. We just joke around with each other, smile and laugh.
“That’s how it works for some people and that’s how it works for me.”
And with the Tokyo Olympics just two years away, the 2014 Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist says reaching the games is not just an ambition, but a realistic goal.
European champion Thankyou to everyone for the support!! pic.twitter.com/MQS3Sq2mDX
— Christian McNeish (@ChrisMcNeish) May 11, 2018
“I wouldn’t say that going to the Olympics was a dream at first,” said McNeish. “I wouldn’t even say it is a dream.
“I think it is more of a goal. It is something that I really want to do and achieve. I want to go and experience it.
“I have been to the youth Olympics and that was good, but I want to go to the next one up. I want to make a name for myself.”
Not only does McNeish face stiff competition on the mats, his younger sister Isobella is also part of the Great British taekwondo team.
While Christian was enjoying a first-place finish at the French Open, his 19-year-old sibling attempted to emulate his success – finishing with bronze.
Despite their individual successes, Christian maintains their competition is nothing but healthy.
“There’s no rivalry, if she is doing better than me I am happy. To see her go and perform well at competitions, it is a good feeling for me. A win for her, is a win for me.
“When I was younger I was always training, and she would rock up to training every month, do a couple of kicks and sit down and say I am not doing anymore.
“My dad taught us, and she used to get away with stuff, but she has definitely stepped up.
“We used to spar, and we were competitive. She didn’t use to have control, so she was always hitting me hard!”
With his first major under his belt, McNeish has a bright future ahead of him for a nation that has gained prominent success in recent years thanks to the efforts of Jade Jones, Lutalo Muhammad and Bianca Walkden at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Image courtesy of GB Taekwondo via YouTube, with thanks.