Damon Sansum targets Rio 2016 Olympics taekwondo medal

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Damon Sansum exits World Taekwondo Championships in final 16

Former kick-boxing world champion Damon Sansum believes he is now ready to dominate taekwondo events, three years after switching sports.

Recruited through the UK Sport-backed Fighting Chanceexternal-link initiative, Sansum missed 2012 Olympic selection despite winning German Open gold - but he is confident about his Rio 2016 prospects.

"Unlike London, I know Rio is such a tangible goal," said the 26-year-old. "I can definitely be in Rio representing GB and hopefully standing on the podium."

He added: "It's taken time for me to settle and really feel like I'm a taekwondo fighter, but now I do."

Sansum and other recruits effectively had two years after they joined the GB Taekwondo academy in Manchester to step up to the Olympic level.

However, after fighting in the non-Olympic -87kg level at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea, he faced a near-impossible battle to prove his credentials against leading contenders Lutalo Muhammad and Aaron Cook in the -80kg Olympic class.

Muhammad eventually won that battle after several weeks of appeals and went on to claim bronze in London.

Sansum attained Swedish Open gold in -87kg class earlier this year, but has since come down to -80kg level and feels optimistic about future success.

"When I came in ahead of 2012 we'd only been doing taekwondo for a short period of time and it all felt really rushed and a bit of a scramble," he said.

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"I didn't really have the results to draw confidence from, but I think I've done really well [in the last year] and beaten some of the top people in the world, so I have more confidence."

The Scottish fighter lost in the -80kg last 16external-link at the 2013 Mexico Worlds this summer after being struck with a head-kick in the final moments against Russian Anton Kotkov.

After recently returning to full training following post-World Championship shoulder surgery, he is now focused on putting right previous wrongs come the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester.

"The Worlds unfortunately didn't go as planned," he said. "It was skin of teeth stuff in the last few seconds and I truly believe that if I hadn't got caught with that kick at the end I would have gone on to win a medal.

"But I'm trying to see it in a positive manner because it keeps you hungry - not complacent - and makes you want to go on and train harder."

Olympic champion Jade Jones headlines a five-strong Britain squad for the Manchester Grand Prix which will kick-start the qualifying period for the Rio Olympics.

Muhammad is also included while Cook, who now represents the Isle of Man - but is eligible for Team GB come the 2016 Games - will also be present.

Sansum is hoping for one of the eight additional wildcard places for host-nation athletes which will be issued later in November.

"The men's side is so strong so no-one has a safe position," he said. "There's that healthy competitive environment where we're friends and socialise - but then spar and have a war together.

"I'm just going to give it everything I've got to get there [in Manchester] and hopefully take a strong result into next year."

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