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Page last updated at 04:11 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 05:11 UK

GB handed tough taekwondo openers

Former GB taekwondo captain John Cullen
For BBC Sport in Beijing


Sarah Stevenson

Michael Harvey gets Britain's bid for a taekwondo medal underway on Wednesday.

In taekwondo the draw is crucial, and the Mancunian has been handed a tough opener against current world silver medallist Guillermo Perez of Mexico.

Harvey is fresh from a consistently successful junior career.

But this is his first Olympics and he'll have to be on top form to overcome Perez, known for his dynamic playing style, great flexibility and wide variety of techniques.

Perez who lives and trains in Mexico City was relaxed when I spoke to him yesterday after arriving straight from a training camp at the Olympic University in Seoul, Korea.

Michael on the other hand has been preparing at both the GB team's Manchester base and of late in Cuba with their highly respected Olympic athletes.

The match kicks off at 0400 BST on Wednesday the 20th, so keep an eye on TV listings for taekwondo's much anticipated arrival.

Harvey knows he will have to be at his best to overcome such a top class opponent but he is ready for the challenge and eminently capable of causing an upset. I for one would be delighted to see him win as he is a first-class person and deserves nothing but the best.

If successful he will go on to fight either Levet Tuncat of Germany or Rohullah Nikpai of Afghanistan, a tough grouping indeed.

British team interest is centred on three-times Olympian Sarah Stevenson, who as a former World Champion, has the sporting pedigree to excel amongst such prestigious company.

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Stevenson is hoping to make up for disappointment in Athens

At 25, she has the maturity and athletic skill to go one step beyond her efforts in Athens (she got knocked out in her opener which was disppointing after a fourth-place finish in Sydney).

But to do so she has to overcome World Cup bronze medallist of 2006, Nadin Dawani of Jordan, in the first match (Saturday 23 August, 0345 BST on BBC TV/website).

If successful, Sarah is likely to face long time rival and double Olympic Champion Chen Zhong (provided of course Zhong can overcome Adriana Guiterez of Venezuela).

Guiterez of course ended Sarah's ambitions in Athens so either way Sarah has he work cut out for her.

She has however overcome both athletes before and is in imperious form of late and goes into the competition full of confidence.

With a realistic chance of a medal Sarah will call upon all her reserves of skill and mental toughness as she chases her Olympic dream.

Good luck Sarah!!! - a sentiment shared by all GB taekwondo fans, in particular by her club coach Gary Sykes of All Stars in Doncaster.

Mum and dad Diane and Roy will also be cheering her on.

That leaves Aaron Cook of Scorpions Taekwondo, again from Doncaster (the fighting heartbeat of GB TKD?) who fights on Friday 22nd at 0415 BST - so set your alarm clocks as his first match may be spectacular.

If the other guys have tough draws then Aaron has a very promising start to the Games indeed, facing Jason Anju, a 20 year old 100/1 outsider from the Marshall Islands who works as a chef at Panda Express in Hawaii.

Anju has the distinction of being the first Marshallese athlete ever to qualify and compete in the Olympic Games.

He made it through the Oceania Qualification tournament (not currently considered the toughest of routes) and will represent his birth country in Beijing and is among a handful of Hawaiian residents to qualify for this year's Olympics.

So a chef meets a Cook - I'm sure they will serve up a spectacular feast of taekwondo - only this time I feel certain the Cook will be just too refined and skilful for the chef!

Aaron will then encounter either Lionel Baguissi of Gabon, or rather more likely Carlos Vasquez of Venezuela, the 23-year-old bronze medallist at the Worlds in Madrid in 2005.

No mean feat considering Vasquez took Steven Lopez to sudden death in the last Worlds at the quarter-final stage.

And Mr Taekwondo (Steven Lopez, double Olympic champion and four-time World Champ) awaits in the semi Finals for Aaron.

A few other stand out matches:

Buttree Puedpong (Thailand) V Daynleis Montejo Poll (Cuba) Wed 20 0345 BST.

Son Tae Jin (Korea) v Dennis Bekkers (Netherlands) Thursday 21, 0515 BST

Nurkina Liya (Kaz) v Gwladys Epangue (France) Friday 22, 0345 BST

Steven Lopez (USA) v Bahri Tanrikulu (Tur) Friday 22, at 0430 BST (again all on BBC TV/web)

Mickael Borot (Fra) v Modibo (Mali) Sat 23rd 0400 BST

God bless from Beijing

JC

John Cullen is a former captain of the GB taekwondo team and current Scottish National Team coach alongside Mark Russell.



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Taekwondo medals table

Sunday, 24 August 2008 10:17 UK
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze TOTAL
1 also show each event results forSouth Korea 4 0 0 4
Men's Over 80kg 1 0 0
Men's Under 68kg 1 0 0
Women's Under 57kg 1 0 0
Women's Under 67kg 1 0 0
2 also show each event results forMexico 2 0 0 2
Men's Under 58kg 1 0 0
Women's Over 67kg 1 0 0
3 also show each event results forChina 1 0 1 2
Men's Under 80kg 0 0 1
Women's Under 49kg 1 0 0
4 also show each event results forIran 1 0 0 1
Men's Under 80kg 1 0 0
5 also show each event results forUSA 0 1 2 3
Men's Under 68kg 0 1 0
Men's Under 80kg 0 0 1
Women's Under 57kg 0 0 1
6 also show each event results forTurkey 0 1 1 2
Men's Under 68kg 0 0 1
Women's Under 57kg 0 1 0
7 also show each event results forCanada 0 1 0 1
Women's Under 67kg 0 1 0
8 also show each event results forDominican Rep 0 1 0 1
Men's Under 58kg 0 1 0
9 also show each event results forGreece 0 1 0 1
Men's Over 80kg 0 1 0
10 also show each event results forItaly 0 1 0 1
Men's Under 80kg 0 1 0
11 also show each event results forNorway 0 1 0 1
Women's Over 67kg 0 1 0
12 also show each event results forThailand 0 1 0 1
Women's Under 49kg 0 1 0
13 also show each event results forChinese Taipei 0 0 2 2
Men's Under 58kg 0 0 1
Men's Under 68kg 0 0 1
14 also show each event results forCroatia 0 0 2 2
Women's Under 57kg 0 0 1
Women's Under 67kg 0 0 1
15 also show each event results forAfghanistan 0 0 1 1
Men's Under 58kg 0 0 1
16 also show each event results forBrazil 0 0 1 1
Women's Over 67kg 0 0 1
17 also show each event results forCuba 0 0 1 1
Women's Under 49kg 0 0 1
18 also show each event results forFrance 0 0 1 1
Women's Under 67kg 0 0 1
19 also show each event results forGreat Britain 0 0 1 1
Women's Over 67kg 0 0 1
20 also show each event results forKazakhstan 0 0 1 1
Men's Over 80kg 0 0 1
21 also show each event results forNigeria 0 0 1 1
Men's Over 80kg 0 0 1
22 also show each event results forVenezuela 0 0 1 1
Women's Under 49kg 0 0 1

see also
Stevenson heads GB Olympic team
20 May 08 |  Taekwondo
Stevenson silver seals 2008 spot
30 Sep 07 |  Taekwondo
Stevenson downed in opener
29 Aug 04 |  Martial Arts
Olympics blog
07 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Beijing 2008
14 Feb 08 |  Olympics


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