Plaistow’s McNeish making big strides

Christian McNeish (left) with fellow gold medalist Jade Jones at the Turkey Open (pic: GB Taekwondo)

Christian McNeish (left) with fellow gold medalist Jade Jones at the Turkey Open (pic: GB Taekwondo) - Credit: Archant

Taekwondo teen targetting more medals

Plaistow teenager Christian McNeish is making big strides in a man’s world as the former kick boxer comes of age in the world of WTF style taekwondo.

The 17-year-old prospect is one of three youngsters in the 20-strong GB squad competing at this weekend’s Luxor Open who needed parental permission to fight in Egypt.

But McNeish, not 18 until April, has shown he’s more than capable of looking after himself once he gets into competition mode.

Last year he won a bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games and became a senior Commonwealth Games champion. Earlier this month he joined London 2012 champion, Jade Jones, on top of the podium by striking gold at the Turkey Open in Antalya.

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“This time last year I was doing prep for the Junior Worlds,” said McNeish, suitably impressed by his own successful transition to the senior ranks.

“You could say I am a bit surprised, but I have always believed in myself. At first I was a bit shaken thinking ‘wow, I am fighting in the seniors now’. They hit harder for a start. But now I have grown up a bit more, I feel more of a man.

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“Then winning in Turkey was another boost. It was my first A class tournament win against some good fighters.”

McNeish defeated fellow Brit, Ben Haines, to strike under-68kg gold and the two could be in contention again on Saturday.

Indeed, with defending champion, Ruebyn Richards, 2015 Greek Open winner Tony Stephenson, former European champion Michael Harvey and London 2012 Olympian Martin Stamper also selected, the GB Academy stars could turn this division red, white and blue.

The three-day Luxor event is also a big occasion for World Junior champion Lauren Williams. Still only 15, she makes her first major competitive appearance of 2015 after missing the second half of last year following knee surgery.

Olympic champion Jones - after three successive tournament wins and a silver medalist in Luxor 12 months ago - is excused duty this time.

So, it’s a chance for Rachelle Booth and Nicole Huntington to make their mark at under-57kg, as Georgia Barnes (under-49kg) looks to improve on last year’s bronze medal, especially after golden success at the Bosnia Open in Sarajevo last month.

Mancunian Jordan Gayle aims to go one better than last year’s silver at under-63kg and what are the chances of a repeat of the last year’s under-80kg final between title holder Lutalo Muhammad and Damon Sansum?

Mahama Cho, one of two GB representatives in the heavyweight division, is out for gold too after losing against home favourite, Mohamed Ayman, in 2014.

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