Britain’s Mahama Cho thanked the injuries that taught him to punch like a boxer and his father for convincing him to stick with the sport after picking up a title at the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester.
The former non-league footballer, born in the Ivory Coast and who has also unofficially represented France but was raised in London, beat Brazil’s Guilherme Felix to the +80kg title in a thrilling sudden death battle with a quick fist to his opponent’s chest.
Cho had earlier inflicted a similar last-gasp defeat on France’s M’Bar N’Diaye in the quarter-finals before an open and enthralling last-four victory over South Korean Cha Dongmin, the 2008 Olympic champion.
Cho was deadly serious when he said he expected to go ‘all the way’ to the crowd after his career high and then explained how only recently he had been tempted to chuck it all in.
“I really have to give this to my father, because a couple of months ago I wanted to stop and he motivated me to come back,” the 24-year-old said.
“I tore a hamstring a couple of months ago but I didn’t sit down, instead I did boxing for a good two-three weeks and it changed the perspective from taekwondo to boxing.
“As you can see, punches are scoring and I was using it to my advantage.”
Cha’s next objective is to make the team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, perhaps a distant goal at the start of the competition but now a whole lot more real.
“Brazil 2016 is my dream, it’s everything that I want. I will say now that I will make it,” he added, going into more detail about his quick-fire punching style.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a trademark now so we’re going to try and develop that.”
London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones is in action on Sunday in the women’s -57kg category while earlier on Friday there was disappointment for compatriots Bianca Walkden and Stephanie Allen in the heavyweight (+67kg) bracket, won by Olga Ivanova of Russia.
Georgia Barnes also made an early exit from the -49kg event, clinched by Spaniard Brigida Yague Enrique when she beat South Korean Kim Sohui in the final.
There was no final luck either for compatriot Lee Injong who lost to world champion Ivanova.
© Sportsbeat 2013