Welsh Taekwondo champions Lauren Williams and Matt Bush are going for gold at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo next year. They are among a group of over 1,000 elite athletes in the UK funded by the National Lottery to ensure that they have every chance of realising their full potential.
The Welsh taekwondo champions, along with double Olympic champion Jade Jones, are all currently training full time in hope of being selected to represent Great Britain at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. National Lottery funding allows them to compete and train full time to the highest international standards.
Matt Bush, 30, from Pembrokeshire became the first British man to claim a title at the World Para-taekwondo championships in Turkey this year and Lauren Williams, 20, from Blackwood, struck gold at the European Championships in 2016.
Both Matt and Lauren train full time at the GB National Taekwondo Centre in Newton Heath, Manchester. The state-of-the-art facility opened in 2016 with the support of National Lottery funding and meets all their training and conditioning needs under one roof. Lauren and Matt are among 19 athletes, including Welsh Taekwondo star Jade Jones, training full time on the World Class Performance Programme.
Matt, who stands at 6ft 5in, said: “I always watched boxing on television when I was growing up but never thought I would actually be able to do it. When I came across martial arts and saw that people were using their legs and elbows, it dawned on me that this was something I might be able to do.”
“Although I live in Pembrokeshire, I do the six-hour drive to Manchester so that I can train with the best. In order to progress in the sport, it’s what I’ve had to do. This is my chance to go to Tokyo in 2020 and represent my country and the only outcome for me is to go and come back with a gold medal. The facilities at the GB Taekwondo Centre are incredible and without it, we wouldn’t be here.”
Lauren said: “I started Taekwondo when I was 14 after being inspired by Jade Jones at the 2012 Olympics. My dad decided to apply for me to be part of the Fighting Chance Programme which meant I could transfer the skills I had developed through years of kickboxing. Taekwondo is a tactful sport with a lot going on and has given me a new avenue in hopefully achieving my goals.”
“We usually train five days a week for anything between four to six hours each time. The National Lottery funding means that we have this incredible facility with access to all the best services and medical staff. Before this, we had to train at an Asda warehouse. We’ve come from that to now having world class facilities. I went to the 2016 Olympics in Rio as a reserve athlete so for me, the big goal is to make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”