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Taekwondo Is A Triumph In Manchester

Niamh Spence explores a hidden sport gem as it holds its world championships in Manchester

Written by . Published on January 2nd 2014.

Taekwondo Is A Triumph In Manchester

TELL me what you know about Taekwondo?

Not much I bet.

For a sport that has earned Great Britain a gold medal in the London Olympics it occupies surprisingly little news space when compared with other sports. A few people might be able to shout out ‘Jade Jones’ or even ‘Lutalo Muhammad’ but that’s sadly about it.

It’s a sorry truth that many Olympic sports don’t get as much coverage, or recognition, as they probably should. They’re often relegated to a menial time slot on the BBC red button or an unsociable time on a rarely viewed satellite channel.

“This is just brilliant for Manchester isn’t it? It’s all great, great to see sport doing so well here.”

Great Britain’s Taekwondo team boasts not one but thirteen Manchester trained athletes including the first ever Olympic gold medallist, Jade Jones, and the first ever Olympic bronze medallist, Lutalo Muhammad.

Based at the Etihad Campus of Sportcity, Taekwondo has solidly grown in stature since the Manchester Commonwealth Games gave the sport a kickstart in the city back in 2002. Recently Cllr Rosa Battle said of the city and its commitment to sports: “The fact that so many events are taking place in the city is testament to our world class facilities and shows that Manchester is a global sporting destination."

The crowd watching with bated breath as Jones fights CalvoThe crowd watching with bated breath as Jones fights Calvo

So with Manchester established as a sporting haven, and not just for football fans either, where better to hold a world championships for a sport that trains in the city and churns out Olympic athletes and hopefuls?

Manchester Central opened its doors in December to welcome 32 athletes all fighting it out, literally, to earn those all-important world ranking points ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016. The competition included newcomers Georgia Barnes and Dominic Brookes fighting alongside seasoned pros.

Three days of sport and fierce battles ensued on the court with many close moments, including one where arch rivals Lutalo Muhammad and Taekwondo’s lone ranger, Aaron Cook, looked set to face each other. At the other end Team GB emerged victorious with two golds and a silver to add to their belt.

Olympic Gold Medallist Jade JonesOlympic Gold Medallist Jade Jones

Sunday’s final in particular was one for the history books with Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones squaring up to rival Eva Calvo. As the final match of the weekend, the audience was eager to see if Britain’s favourite could stay top of the pile. Pipped to the post in a tense sudden death round, Jones had to settle for silver but the steely glint in her eye hints that she won’t stay in second place for very long.

Alongside the excitement on court, the crowd was an animated bunch and none more so than 73-year-old Sam Jameson. “I just love all of it,” smiled the retired P.E. teacher. “This is just brilliant isn’t it? It’s all great, just great to see the sport doing so well here.” He came over all camera-shy when prompted for a photograph but seemed happy enough to continue chatting about sport and what he calls ‘a grand old city’.

“Seeing so many getting into sport from here is just brilliant. Sport has moved on from when I used to teach hockey and football and rugby, I mean the Olympics had so many sports. Some I’d never even seen.” chuckled Jameson.

Taekwondo is unfortunately one of those less seen sports, not a school curriculum favourite and certainly not shown down the pub to be enjoyed with a pint. For a sport that has earned Great Britain medals and world rankings it seems a shame that it doesn’t command more headlines and more airtime. 

And before you know it it's gone...And before you know it it's gone...

With the Taekwondo athletes training all year round and pushing themselves to be the very best, the Rio Olympics is looming on the horizon for many. Jones, Muhammad and Cho will all be expected to hold onto their top rankings and many of the newcomers will be hoping for medals and titles too. Lutalo Muhammad, named Team GB Athlete Of The Year, is definitely one to watch. With a bronze already under his belt and a gold at the Grand Prix, he's only just getting started. "It's fantastic news," he said of his Athlete Of The Year award. "It's been an up and down year but I've had a great finish and this is a fitting end to 2013."

Follow the GB taekwondo team on twitter at: @TeamGBTaekwondo

Taekwondo is originally a Korean martial art that has been an olympic sport since 2000. A combat sport focusing on high kicks and fast hand movements, fighters can score points based on striking blows to their opponents stomach or kicking their head. Penalties are deducted for striking areas such as legs or neck.

Matches typically consist of three rounds and if there is no winner a fourth 'sudden death' round will occur. In this round, whoever scores first is deemed the winner.

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