GB Taekwondo Performance Director Gary Hall believes the sport’s 17 per cent funding increase will make a “huge difference” to Britain’s chance of winning medals at Rio 2016 and beyond.
Only two sports – Fencing and Triathlon achieved bigger percentage increases when UK Sport handed out nearly £350 million to Olympic and Paralympic sports earlier this week following its annual review of elite sport funding.
The decision removed any lingering fears of a cash cut after last season’s WTF World Championships in Mexico when Britain’s squad of eight returned from Puebla empty handed.
“We were nervous but in five years, prior to the Worlds, we had never missed a target,” said Hall ahead of his team’s opening tournament of the year-the Trelleborg Open in Sweden.
“Sometimes it is good if you don’t achieve your goals because it allows you to deeply assess where you are and allows you to change things up which GB Taekwondo has done.
“We put together a very strong business case and reviewed the programme incredibly deeply after Mexico.
“It is a significant amount of money and will make a huge difference to what we are trying to achieve in this Rio cycle but also through to the Tokyo cycle.”
In Rio, Hall hopes to name athletes in all eight Olympic weight divisions.
“The fact we can win eight medals in 2016, as opposed to four in the London cycle, is a huge opportunity for us as a sport and I think that was a key aspect of the investment from UK Sport,” he confirmed.
“However, the funding also allows to improve and develop across all areas whether that be data andcommunication systems, making sure our coaches-who I believe are already the best in the world-have more development opportunities, while we are also looking to bespoke projects around injuries and injury management around a full contact sport.”
The sport has also received further confirmation of its progress with publication of the latest Olympic weight division rankings published by the World Taekwondo Federation-the sport’s governing body.
Muhammad (-80kg) and Jones (-57kg) are ranked second while Mahama Cho, who only re-joined the GB Academy last summer, climbed nearly 80 places to number seven in the +80kg category. Muhammad and Cho won gold and Jones, a silver, at the inaugural World Grand Prix held in Manchester last December.
“Previously the ranking system allowed the more consistent performers at lower level events to benefit from seeding on the draw sheet for the World and European Championships,” explained Hall.
“That for me didn’t stack up. We recognised the importance of a ranking system but we believe the WTF has now taken major steps towards a standardisation of ranking systems.
“In the next two or three years those rankings will be a genuine reflection of who the better players in the world are.
“We are really pleased the ranking systems are beginning to mean a lot more and that our guys are pushing for the top spots.”
Hall has also confirmed GB Taekwondo have submitted a bid to host another World Taekwondo Grand Prix event in Manchester later this year.
After the major boosts away from competition the next six weeks will ensure a hive of activity for GB athletes, starting with a seven strong squad travelling to Scandinavia.
However, in the near future all the major stars will be in action, including ground breaking trips to Egypt, Fuijairah and Bahrain.
“We are looking forward to the challenge and these first two or three months are all about the squad amassing ranking points and making a statement to be considered on the squad for the European Championships in May,” added Hall. “But it is also about competing again because that’s why these guys train so hard every day of the week.”