The WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix finally gets under way today at the Manchester Regional Arena.
The world’s leading 250 athletes will again come together across three days of exciting competition with important qualification points at stake.
GB Performance Director Gary Hall has named 16 athletes – including six wild cards – for the final competitive outing on home soil before next summer’s Rio Olympic Games.
And the GB team will be looking to gain from their home advantage and continue their steady progress towards next summer.
Olympic champion Jade Jones and world champion Bianca Walkden are the main medal hopes but with a bright young crop of talent coming through too, it is hoped that the team will be well represented on the podium.
World number one Jones has already secured Britain a place in the -57kg division for Rio, but Walkden – who is ranked third in the +67kg class – still has work to do in order to secure Britain in her division.
Walkden needs a top-six world ranking by the end of 2015 to secure Great Britain a +67kg Olympic berth and is currently third.
She missed much of last year following a knee ligament injury but recovered to take world gold in Russia in May.
“I’ve done really well to get back, but I’m not there [in Rio] yet,” she said.
“I’m probably only at about 80% of my powers still as it takes so long to come back from an injury like I had.”
One of the most intriguing battles will be in the men’s -80kg division where Olympic bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad and world silver medallist Damon Sansum are vying for one Olympic place in the GB team.
GB chief Hall believes his Newton Heath-trained squad can use the home crowd at the Regional Arena on the Etihad Campus to its advantage.
“The atmosphere will be like a cauldron so I am looking forward to some great performances because the team is in a good vein of form,” said Hall.
“There is added pressure as it is on home soil but it is great preparation for Rio. We have got one of the strongest squads in the world and once we get them into the Grand Prix arena they go out and give it their all. And they will be in front of the Manchester crowd.
“The team is really up for it. It is going to be a massive three days for us,” he said.
“We are looking to them to give us that additional boost and drive. It is a passionate taekwondo crowd and we hope it will happen again this time.”
There are a range of tickets available, to suit all budgets: day/evening session, combined session, weekend or competition (all 3 days) passes. Single sessions are available from just £10 for adults, with all day (combined) tickets starting from £20. Juniors (Under 16) go half price.
Experience the excitement, drama and electrifying atmosphere of this explosive Olympic sport, tickets available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/WTGP or by calling 0844 277 0700.
WTF Olympic Rankings
1st Jade Jones (F-57kg)
3rd Bianca Walkden (F+67kg)
5th Damon Sansum (M-80kg)
7th Lutalo Muhammad (M-80kg)
8th Mahama Cho (M+80kg)
17th Rachelle Booth (F-57kg)
19th Charlie Maddock (F-49kg)
Image courtesy of Taekwondo GB via YouTube, with thanks.