Refreshed Cho chomping at the bit to resume Tokyo 2020 mission

Refreshed Cho chomping at the bit to resume Tokyo 2020 mission

12 June 2020 / 15:45

As someone who prefers to look at his glass as half full rather than half empty, it is no surprise that Mahama Cho has taken lockdown and the postponement of Tokyo 2020 in his stride.

The 30-year-old had secured an Olympic spot in the taekwondo heavyweight division for Britain after defeating reigning world champion Radik Isaev at the Grand Slam Champion Series in December.

And having narrowly missed out on a medal at Rio 2016 with a fifth-place finish, Cho had looked in good shape to climb the podium in Tokyo before the worldwide coronavirus pandemic struck.

But rather than feeling frustrated about his bid for Olympic gold being delayed, the 6ft 4in fighter believes the chance to rest his body will benefit him when the Games do take place. 

“I was happy in a sense that even though it [Tokyo 2020] was taken away, it just allowed me to recover because it’s been a long cycle, it’s been a long four years,” he said.

“I am 30 years old and my body has been battered for that long. If someone tells me you have another year to relax, I’m going to take the chance to boost my energy as much as possible.

“Every little niggle that I had is going away with rest, mentally you are in a happier place. There is no real pressure and that feeling is amazing because you can go into your own world of happiness.

“You miss your sport, you miss your teammates, you miss your facilities, you miss the flow of competition, you miss preparing and all that you do obviously miss.

“When you miss that it gives you an extra boost, extra time for reflection and insight as when you go back you go back more hungry, you go back more alert, you go back more refreshed.

“That just allows you to create a good training plan to get ready for your optimal objective. That is what is going to spur a lot of us on to smash our own records from the last Olympics.”

Based in Manchester, where the National Taekwondo Centre is located, Cho was fortunate enough to be provided an empty apartment in the building where he lives to train during lockdown.

He was also able to borrow all the equipment he needed from GB Taekwondo HQ to maintain his training routine at his home, which he shares with his partner Samantha.

“We’ve been tackling each other in the household as she’s been working from home as well so every day when I wake up she’s on the table with her computers,” he said.

“She has ten meetings or so a day and I’ll get up and spend half a day in the gym training and we try to have a balance where we don’t disturb each other’s work space.”

As well as keeping up his training routine, Cho kept himself busy by doing live fitness sessions on Instragram and has even co-founded a new international sport platform business, YepoW.

He said: “It kind of made the quarantine worthwhile on my behalf. This is why I sound more positive than negative because it took me to a different place I didn’t believe I could be before.”

But with the country slowly easing out of lockdown and things getting back to some kind of normal, the world silver medallist insists the past few months have given him a whole new outlook.

“In my eyes the sacrifice of another year is not any different as you’ve done all the hard work, you’ve done four years already so one more year shouldn’t really affect you anyway,” he said.

“It’s hard when you’ve been used to a routine for so long, that’s been your day-to-day life, when someone takes that away from you it’s going to be frustrating.

“Your routine has been taken away and you now have to find a substitute to replace the idealistic way you used to live and as an athlete, you have to replace the normality you had.

“You’re locked at home and seeing the same four walls all the time, you’re going to the same places every time, the same stairs to go to your gym area, it’s frustrating.

“But it puts things into perspective, you really appreciate the facilities that you have, the access you’ve been given. It’s a privilege to have that and have a job with a clear clarity going forward.

“Lockdown made me more thankful for having a facility to train, having team members and support staff behind you, it made me think, ‘I’m healthy, I’m well, my body is recovering and once everything is back to normal I’ll be good’.

“Every day I had that mindset so I don’t get really drained or frustrated, taking the focus away from the objective at the end - which is to win an Olympic gold medal.”

Sportsbeat 2020

Mahama Cho