Damon_SansumJanuary 15 - Two rising stars of taekwondo have joined Britain's elite academy.

Former world kick-boxing champion Damon Sansum (pictured) and Ruebyn Richards, a former junior European taekwondo champion, both successfully graduated from the Talent 2012 programme.

Sansum and Richards were among more than 1,000 participants who earlier this year responded to the Fighting Chance initiative - developed by Sport Taekwondo UK in partnership with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) - aimed at uncovering talented athletes with the potential to reach the podium in 2012 and at future Games.

Both have had less than six months with the academy as members of a select pool of "talent" athletes whom Sport Taekwondo UK performance coaches have sought to progress and develop into medal-winning competitors.

In that time Sansum won his first competitive taekwondo medal at last month's French Open in Paris and, with Richards, now joins an elite squad that includes Beijing bronze medallist Sarah Stevenson and world number one Aaron Cook.

Sport Taekwondo UK's performance director Gary Hall said: "Both Damon and Ruebyn have done tremendously well in their short time with the academy and have adapted well to the demands of being full time athletes.

"They have both shown that they have the potential to not only push for a place in the British team in 2012 but also to reach the podium.

"It is a very exciting and important boost to our academy as the Games draw closer."

Fellow talent programme athletes Sophie Dickson and Andrew Deer have all been identified as 2016/2020 potential athletes and will join a new talent development programme early in the new year, while Lauren Price will continue to receive support as she pursues a career in women's boxing.

Sport Taekwondo UK are also working with Sport England to roll out new development initiatives for taekwondo in 2011 aimed at ensuring that there is continuity for the sport and its emerging athletes beyond the 2012 Games.