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OLYMPIC HOPEFULS LAUNCH 2012 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP TICKET SALES

 London 2012 contenders Bianca Walkden and Michael Harvey have thrown their weight behind today’s ticket launch for the European Taekwondo Championships taking place in Manchester from May 3-6.

The Championships are being hosted in the UK for the first time and form an integral part of Manchester’s exciting month of sport in May.

They will provide former world number two Walkden and 2008 Beijing Olympian Harvey, plus the rest of their Manchester trained team mates, a last chance to impress before Great Britain’s four-strong Olympic squad is revealed.

And for sports enthusiasts who missed out on Olympic tickets, the European Championships provide a fantastic opportunity to watch our potential 2012 medallists in action.

Event Director, Ian Leafe of GB Taekwondo said: “We’re privileged to be able to host such a prestigious event in the UK just ahead of the Olympic Games. It’s a great chance for some of our top GB athletes to get championship experience against what will be a world class field.

“And as well as being a championship in its own right, it’s obviously going to provide some serious pointers towards selection for London 2012, not just for Great Britain but for Europe’s finest taekwondo nations.

“It promises to be an exciting week in Manchester and we’re making every effort to ensure that the event will be accessible and affordable for all.”

Walkden, who won the British Open at the Regional Athletics Arena, Sportcity last October and 2011 World Championship silver medallist, Harvey, joined Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Harry Lyons, to officially launch ticket sales at Manchester Town Hall.

Councillor Mike Amesbury, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Leisure said,

“Manchester is the home of GB Taekwondo and we’re extremely proud to be the first UK city to host the European Championships. The Championship adds to our enviable sporting programme and once again shows that Manchester is a city that truly embraces all sport.  

“This is a chance to see athletes at the top of their game as they prepare to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. All tickets for taekwondo at this summer’s games have already sold out so I’m sure the championship will prove incredibly popular.”

UK Sport are a major partner for the European Championships and their Head of Major Events, Esther Nicholls, said:
“It is fantastic to be able to bring the European Championships to Manchester ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. This event will provide excellent preparation for our top Olympic hopefuls as well as a great opportunity for the fans in Manchester, who have supported GB Taekwondo’s journey to date, to support the team.

This will be the 23rd event to take place in Manchester as part of UK Sport’s Lottery funded world class events programme in the past five years. This has helped to prepare athletes, officials and volunteers for London 2012 and seen over 100 world class events staged right across the UK.”

Walkden, 20, from Liverpool, is currently fighting in the +73kg weight division. Starting 2011 with a serious knee injury, she recovered superbly to win double gold at the Polish Open, topping off her comeback to form with a superb triumph at the British Open.

Bianca enthused “It will be great to have the European Championships in Manchester. They’re taking place five minutes from where I live and train so it’s fantastic to have such home advantage.

“I know there will be a bit of extra pressure to perform but I am sure we will all get used to it. And it will be a great experience for anyone lucky enough to be selected for the Olympics.

“For me, I’m going to train my hardest and stay focussed. I got a bronze at the last Europeans and believe I can do better this time.”

Droylsden born Michael Harvey was only 18 when he competed at the 2008 Olympics in the -63kg division. Now he’s chasing Games selection again in the ultra competitive -68kg weight class.

United fan Michael secured a superb silver medal at last year’s world gathering in Gyeongju, one of a record breaking four medals achieved by the Newton Heath based GB Academy squad.

Michael said “This is one of our most important events, especially it is the last one before the Olympic squad is announced. All the other nations will see it as their last big test before London so I’d be surprised if all the top players weren’t there.

“It’s great to have the Championships in the UK. But it’s even better being the local boy to have them in Manchester.

“I lost in the first round at the last Europeans but I’m more experienced now and a repeat result is not an option.”

The GB squad also includes current World and European champion, Sarah Stevenson now fighting back after surgery last week to repair ligament damage, sustained at the team’s recent training camp in Mexico.

She has until the end of May to prove her fitness for Olympic selection and could still compete in the European Championships.

All taekwondo tickets for this summer’s Games have been sold proving the popularity of this ancient martial art with its origins in South Korea.  So, the European Championships offer a great opportunity to see what the fuss is all about and watch GB’s Olympic contenders in action before the final squad is announced at the end of May.

Tickets are now on sale and can be booked via 0844 844 0444 or website atwww.ticketmaster.co.uk

Tickets are priced at £11 adult, £6 children (under 16), £28 for family ticket (2 adults & 2 children)