FIGHTING CHANCE APPLICANTS MOVE A STEP CLOSER ON MEDAL QUEST
Over 40 applicants for the Fighting Chance Talent Campaign, which is offering high level combat athletes from all kicking orientated martial arts, including taekwondo, the opportunity to trial for a place in the elite taekwondo academy, have undergone phase two of the initiative as the quest to find an athlete capable of winning Olympic Gold in 2012 continued in Manchester.
The initiative, launched last October by Sport Taekwondo UK and the UK Talent Team - a collaboration between UK Sport and English Institute of Sport [EIS] – is endeavouring to mould an Olympic medallist by scouring the cream of British martial arts talent, with those present having already made it through a rigorous application and phase one assessment process.
With over 1000 initial applications, the selection process has inevitably involved some tough decisions as Paul Mullan, Senior Talent Identification Scientist for the UK Talent Team, explained: “What started off as a large scale appeal for talent within martial arts has developed into a very selective process and the fact that we have World and European medallists from other martial arts disciplines amongst the applicants gives you some indication as to the quality of athletes we’re talking about” he told eis2win.co.uk
“Transferring to a different martial art or code is challenging in itself, but given the aim of this programme being for an athlete to emerge as a potential Olympic medallist in less than three years, it inevitably required the selection process to be very stringent.”
Over 200 applicants progressed to phase one assessments, held earlier this year at Roehampton, Wolverhampton and Manchester, with just 41 making the cut for phase two.
Mullan said: “The aim of phase one was to look at various physical characteristics as well as the athletes’ ability to transfer current fighting style to incorporate basic characteristics of Olympic taekwondo, whilst phase two was much more focused around how they interacted with the coaches and how receptive they were to what they were being taught.”
“We are dealing with very tight timeframes in order for these athletes to be at the right level by 2012, so their ability to pick things up in a short space of time and implement them in a fight situation is very important” he adds.
Gary Hall, Performance Director for Sport Taekwondo UK, said: “We decided to launch this programme because we’re looking for and believe there is still potential combat athletes out there that can make it to the 2012 podium.”
“There is talent within our current pool of athletes, however we recognise that there are other combat athletes that may have the skills we’re looking for to deliver gold medal success at 2012.”
“Is it achievable? We believe it is” he adds. “We have two very significant cases in point in Aaron Cook, who began as a TAGB Fighter, and is now current world junior champion, and Nelson Miller, our Senior High Performance Coach, who started in karate but converted across and became a pan American champion some six times.”
“It is possible but it will take a lot of hard work and the athletes must have the characteristics that we’re looking for.”
Those who impressed during phase two will soon be invited to attend a eight day boot camp as they take another step towards representing Great Britain in 2012.
“We are ideally looking for them to be medalling at the National Championships next January and in international competition by next summer, so the timeframes are tight” explains Mullan.
“We really are looking for exceptional athletes that can do exceptional things in an exceptionally short period of time.”
by James Skitt - English Institute of Sport