GB Taekwondo Fighting Chance – 22 June
Three P.U.M.A. students took part in the World Taekwondo (WT) Fighting Chance Programme for 13-18 year old’s wishing to join the GB Olympic Taekwondo Development Squad. Congratulations and best wishes to Miss Holly Henwood (1st degree, Devon Martial Arts), Iden Hubbuck (1st kup, Chesterfield Taekwon-Do) and Georgia Stans (2nd Kup, Newton Abbott Martial Arts).
Georgia Stans recalls her experience:
Friday 21st June 2019, myself and my parents started our journey up to the Great Britain Olympic Taekwondo Academy in Manchester. The 5-hour trip was travelled with cheesy music, nervous chatter and of course a few well-timed service stops. Seems as we had collectively made the decision to come up the day before the try outs, my parents felt like we had all the time in the world to make our way up to the hotel, I on the other hand only found my stomach dropping with each mile we came closer to Manchester. One thing I definitely found that soothed my nerves though was the love and support that I received from some of my close friends within the PUMA organisation and of course the idea that I was not doing this alone – Holly Henwood was accompanying me for her second try out for the development team.
Upon arriving at the hotel, my 1st step after dropping my bags was hanging out my Dobok ready for the next morning. After that point everything else in my night became a hazy blur on anticipation for the day that I had ahead of me.
The next morning was all that I hoped it could be. 9am in the National Taekwondo Centre and ready to weigh in, I found myself fixated on one thing above the rest, a neat timeline displayed over most of the walls of the reception. A perfect chronological display of yearly achievements and ambitions, each medal awarded to each athlete each year up to present day only seemed to steadily grow and grow with more achievements than the last, promising only greatness for the years to come. Holly arrived shortly after me and we went over how we were feeling and made sure to crack a few bad jokes around the WT rule system’s regards to punching to the body only. We really only did this to make fun of our underlying fear of messing up and punching another athlete in the face.
Once everyone had arrived and weighed in, we were gathered into a small conference room and briefed on what the next 3 hours would hold. There was a gentle buzz of excitement amongst the athletes in the room, all clearly eager to start the assessment phase and give it their best. But before anyone could do so, we were given a very important message from Lutalo Muhammad, an Olympic silver and bronze medallist, in which we were once again told what would and would not be accepted as legal attacks and defences in our assessment.
From this point on we were welcomed into the main Taekwondo gym. A place that on the most part, day in and out, is inhabited by GB’s Olympic level Taekwondo athletes, now being breached by a group of hopeful and ambitious 13-18 year olds. Initially my eyes were drawn straight to the mats they had recently installed, fresh from the venue of the Manchester WT world championships. This was only one of many not so subtle reminders of the prestige possessed by the academy. Another was the proudly displayed ‘Great Britain Olympic Taekwondo Academy’ sign written upon a large Union Jack. A reminder to their regular athletes of the pride and honour that they have representing their country and a reminder to our ambitious group of all that we have the chance of getting into.
Holly and I befriended another girl named Arwen who was also doing her assessment and we all decided to spend the time up to our assessments warming up together. As Holly had the 3rd assessment fight, she had to rush to make sure she had finished her physio assessment and prepared before her fight.
During each assessment, no one is allowed past a curtain that was dividing up the hall in order to keep everything strictly professional and to avoid the interference of coaches and so all we could do was sit patiently and hope for the best as the others were fighting. My fight was the 6th of the day and it came quickly. Just before I was called in, I was accompanied by Holly and Arwen over to the other side of the gym so that I could get on my own helmet and hogu (chest protector). We all chatted excitedly with the members of staff that were helping me with my gear until I was told to take a deep breath in and hold it as the back of the hogu was tied up. The fit was surprisingly comfortable but as my instructor Mr Ed Colman-Roberts had already helped me established by making we wear one in all of our lessons 2 weeks before the assessment, I knew that: one, it would very quickly become uncomfortable as I got warm from sparring; and two, getting hit in it would hurt more than expected.
Next I was called in. As quickly as the fight began, it was ended. The referee stopped fight in the 1st round of 3 as myself and my partner were not effective for one another enough for the judges to see our ability. Once out to the other side of the curtain I was greeted again by Holly and Arwen who had been waiting for me on the other side. Each of them asked me how it was while my hogu was removed and then further reassured me that everything went fine. The 3 of us quickly went over to the other side of the hall again to re-join our parents where I told mine what had happened and they also reassured me. Moments later while I’m stretching off, a member of staff jogs up towards me and tells me I’m being given another assessment fight.
Once again, I make my way over to get my hogu and helmet and I great the girl I was to be fighting. This time going much more smoothly, my opponent and I both eager to do our best and not waste our chance. It was a great atmosphere and I had a great time with my opponent before the end of the 3rd round where she managed to kick me in the face and catch my eye and nose. The fight is stopped roughly 20-30 seconds short and my opponent and I hug tightly, congratulate and thank one another and then make our way to the other side of the curtain. Same process again, hugs and congratulations but this time accompanies by sympathy and a few jokes at my eye and nose.
After my fights, I took the opportunity to take many, many photos of and in the gym so I could look back on my experience later. The best place for photos definitely ended up being in front of the Union Jack canvas but of course I couldn’t waste my opportunity to get photos of other parts of the gym as well especially because of the prestige of the whole place.
Once all assessments were finished, we were all gathered together and congratulated for our efforts and told that we should find out the results for the 1st phase on the weekend of the 15th of July.
Soon I was out of the building and back in the car, not looking forward to another 5-hour journey of cheesy music but at least I could be confident in knowing that the total 10-hour trip was worth the great experience that I gained in my time at the national Taekwondo centre. My instructor quickly called me to find out how it went and I was eager to share with him all that I had experienced in the last few hours.
Regardless of the outcome of my assessment I am glad to have been given the opportunity to try out for such an amazing team. there is so much to take out of it all and with my very minimal understanding of the WT style, I know I have a lot to learn from this point forwards but I can be confident in saying that it was great to be exposed to such an intense and serious environment and I can’t wait to learn more about the WT style.