British Taekwondo reveal 2012 Olympic weight divisions

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

World champion Sarah Stevensonexternal-link has had her -67kg weight division nominated for the London Olympics.

British Taekwondoexternal-link had to name four categories by the end of May and have also selected the women's -57kg as well as the men's -68kg and -80kg classes.

"It was a very difficult decision to reach," said taekwondo performance director Gary Hall.

"We'd love to be able to select more GB athletes, giving us eight medal chances, but we only have four spots."

Earlier this month Great Britain returned from their most successful World Championships of all time.

In addition to Stevenson's gold, Jade Jonesexternal-link (-57kg) and Michael Harveyexternal-link (-62kg) both secured silver medals in Korea and Martin Stamperexternal-link (-68kg) earned a bronze.

"After Korea I was 99% certain my weight would get selected but you still can't be completely sure so it's great to finally know that it's there," Stevenson told BBC Sport.

"Now I can relax a little, have a holiday and come back ready to fight for my place in the Olympic team," said the Beijing bronze medallist.

The inclusion of the -67kg category means heavyweight Bianca Walkdenexternal-link, who won both the World Martials Arts championship and British Open last year, must now attempt to 'boil-down' if she is to reach the 2012 Olympics.

"Bianca has been our most consistent fighter over the last 18 months and she's been desperately unlucky with injuries, but the decision had to be made on what we know now and the form players (Stevenson and Jones) are there, but it was a really tough decision because it means leaving a potentially great athlete at home (come the Olympics)," reflected Hall.

Teenager Jonesexternal-link is another who is now in a prime position to push for a place in the Olympic set-up after her -57kg division was nominated.

Jones, Youth Olympic champion in 2010, has excelled since stepping up to senior competition this year and proved her 2012 podium potential with a silver medal at the World Championships in Korea in early May.

"The confirmation of the weight categories brings clarity to the athletes and allows them to focus on a tangible goal," said Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt.

"This announcement allows GB Taekwondo to build on their fantastic performances at the World Championships this month."

The news will come as a particular relief to 2010 European Champion Aaron Cookexternal-link.

The 20-year-old entered the Worlds ranked at the top of the -80kg global standings, but suffered an embarassing opening round defeat to the little-known American Luke Ford.

However, his success prior to this event looks to have been enough secure his weight division selection for the 2012 Olympics.

"We've looked at performances across recent international events as well as the major championships such as the Europeans, and the recent World Championships, and have selected the weight categories that we feel give us the best chance of medal success in London next year," said Hall.

"Had the heavyweights done more (at the worlds) then it would have been a very tricky decision, but I still expect a lot of movement within the -80kg category and think there'll be more than just Aaron in contention," Hall told BBC Sport.

"We now need to do the work up to the Olympics and hopefully the results will be good enough if not better than in Korea and help us achieve aim of becoming the best team in the world by the end of 2012," concluded Hall.

Although the weight divisions have been named, British Taekwondo will not nominate the athletes who will compete at the 2012 Games until May next year, shortly after the European Taekwondo Championships in Manchester.

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