By Duncan Mackay

Fighting Chance logoNovember 15 - A new nationwide talent identification programme has been launched by GB Taekwondo to find fresh talent in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. 

In conjunction with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, the scheme called Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil, is aimed at high achieving 16 to 26-year-old male and female combat athletes from all kick based martial arts who believe they are capable of successfully transferring to taekwondo.

The sport has enjoyed an increased profile after the London 2012 Olympic Games with one gold and one bronze medal achieved, which added to the bronze won four years ago in Beijing

Jade Jones and Lutalo Muhammad, the gold and bronze medallists from London 2012, and Sarah Stevenson, who had claimed bronze at Beijing 2008, all helped launched the new initiative.

Lutalo Muhammad at London 2012 August 10Lutalo Muhammad (right) won a bronze medal at London 2012 after being discovered by the original Fighting Chance scheme

It aims to build on the original Fighting Chance scheme launched three years to discover new talent and which received 1,000 applications.

These included several from ITF Taekwondo, a more traditional form of the sport which is not as widely practiced internationally as the format that appears in the Olympics and is administered by the World Taekwondo Federation. 

Among those who made the switch as a result of Fighting Chance was Muhammad. 

GB Taekwondo officials believe that the recent rule changes increasing points scored for kicks to the head will further enhance the opportunity for talent transfer from other martial arts.

"The original Fighting Chance talent identification campaign in 2009 was very successful for athletes to complement the talented juniors we were already developing," said Gary Hall, the GB Taekwondo performance director.

"The new Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil campaign should help us build on the successes we have had so far and reach wider audiences.

"The success we achieved in London was incredible but we are not resting on our laurels, there is more talent out there to discover."

Since 2007, the UK Talent Team has worked with 20 Olympic and Paralympic sports and more than 100 world class coaches to find new talent with more than 7,000 athletes being assessed. 

Fighting Chance launchGB Taekwondo's Fighting Chance initiative is backed by Britain's top stars

These projects have resulted in over 100 athletes selected by sports into the world class system with 293 international appearances made and a total of 102 international medals won.

Twelve of these athletes went onto represent Team GB at London 2012, the most successful of which was rower Helen Glover, who was part of the crew which won Britain's first gold medal of the Games.

"The London 2012 Games saw great success for British athletes and there was notable impact on the medals won from talent ID athletes who have come through our campaigns," said Ian Yates from the UK Talent Team.

"The talent initiatives have a proven track record in discovering untapped sporting potential and we are now focussing on continuing to impact on British success through to Rio in 2016.

"It is fantastic that taekwondo will be involved in our first initiative post London 2012."

Jones, who won the Olympic gold medal in the women's -57 kilogram category after switching from ITF Taekwondo five years ago, believes that the sport is on the verge of a boom in Britain following London 2012. 

"I've had a lot of feedback since the summer's Olympic Games that more and more people are looking to get into WTF Taekwondo," she said.

"It is a fantastic sport and certainly has attributes which appeal to other combat athletes.

"My experience at London 2012 was incredible and I'm so happy that the sport is receiving more interest but I want to see this grow and continue in the lead up to 2016.

"Fighting Chance: Battle4Brazil is a great programme to help that happen."

Jade Jones celebrates winning Olympic gold medal August 9 2012Jade Jones' victory at London 2012 has helped popularise taekwondo

Muhammad is pleased that he made the switch. 

 "It is exciting to see the increase in popularity that taekwondo has gained since our success this summer," he said.

"London was an incredible experience for me and I would encourage others who think they could transfer their skills to WTF Taekwondo to apply for Fighting Chance as they too could experience the thrill of an Olympic Games in 2016."

Anyone interested in finding out more should click here

Applications are due to close on January 14, 2013.

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