After watching Jade Jones win gold at last summer’s Olympics, Belper Taekwondo ace Jessica-Mai Woodhouse has her sights set on emulating her idol’s success.
And the 17-year-old Derby College student is one step closer to Rio after being selected for a special training camp at the Taekwondo Team GB headquarters in Manchester this weekend.
If successful, Woodhouse, who was nominated for the training camp by instructor Ralph Minot of the Nottingham Taekwondo Club, will move on to the next of four training stages, which culminate in team selection in the months leading up to the Rio Olympic Games.
“I was amazed when I was asked to go to the phase one training and selection for Team GB,” she said.
“It is the start of a very long road to Rio, so who knows what will happen?
“Just to be invited to this stage and get in front of the top national coaches is an achievement in itself.
“I would obviously love to represent my country at the Olympics if I get the chance and follow in the footsteps of Olympians such as Jade Jones, who won Britain’s first gold medal in Taekwondo at London 2012.”
The former John Flamsteed School pupil started learning the ancient Korean martial art when she was seven years old and has quickly progressed through the ranks.
She gained her first black belt when she was 11, her second degree black belt at 15 and, for the past two years, has competed nationally and internationally – leading to her winning the girls sparring world title in 2010.
Woodhouse, who is only 5ft 4 ins tall, competes in a low weight class for women weighing up to 55 kilos but said that technique was far more important than weight and strength in this highly-disciplined sport.
She said: “People are often surprised when they find out that I compete in Taekwondo. I am pretty quiet and never get wound up or angry – even in the ring. Taekwondo is all about discipline, concentration and outsmarting your opponent and that is what wins matches – not brute strength.
“Taekwondo has really helped me build up my confidence but I still get very nervous before a fight. To succeed you have to be very focused and dedicated.”