Brave Ben is gutsy in defeat

Ben Haines gave a bigger German rival a real scare at the European Championships. Picture: Allan Hutchings (13302-774)
Ben Haines gave a bigger German rival a real scare at the European Championships. Picture: Allan Hutchings (13302-774)
Lucas Ballinghall, left, faces Michael Dehamnia in a featherweight contest Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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Olympic hopeful Ben Haines called on all his reserves of strength but agonisingly missed out on a glory bid at the European Under-21 Championships.

The Horndean fighter, still battling on with a fractured hand picked up in competition in Germany recently, lost 17-16 in a dramatic opening contest.

It was a valuable learning experience in Moldova, though, with Haines selected to compete for Great Britain in the -80kg Olympic weight.

That meant the 19-year-old, who is the reigning British national champion at -74kg, found himself up against a much bigger and more experienced German fighter.

At one stage Haines fell 15-8 down before he showed plenty of guts, determination and quality to level the scores, only for a punch in the final two seconds to end his campaign.

Haines said: ‘They moved me up to -80kg but I was weighing in at -74kg.

‘My opponent was probably just a bit over 80kg by the time we fought.

‘I noticed that I was kicking him and bouncing off, really. You could definitely feel his strength.

‘My natural weight is 74kg but I have spoken about it with my coach and we think I can put more muscle on and go up to 76kg.

‘Then, when I am fighting at -74kg, I can diet down when I need to.

‘The standard was quite high in Moldova. It was a good competition.

‘My opponent went to 15-8 up but I thought to myself “I have come all the way out here and I have to give it everything I’ve got”.

‘I got back to 15-15, then he went 16-15 up. I got another point to make it 16-16 but he got me with a punch in the last two seconds.

‘The fight must have taken a lot out of him because he fought a Russian in the quarter-finals and got destroyed.’

Moldova may seem like a strange choice of host – with the venues and facilities not up to world-class standard.

But the fans in the eastern European country showed their passion for taekwondo and made it an experience to remember for the competitors.

Haines added: ‘We had the opening ceremony and their singer from the Eurovision Song Contest performed. That was quite good.

‘The crowd out there were nuts.

‘Home advantage was definitely a bonus for them. I think the referees gave the home fighters a bit of leniency with points as a result.

‘Moldova had a few good players as well.’

Haines is hoping to get selected to join the GB Taekwondo Academy as he bids to make the 2016 Rio Olympic team.

His coach has already moved up to Manchester where the academy is based and Haines could find out in June whether he is selected for a place through the Battle for Brazil event.

He said: ‘If it falls into place and I get selected to join the Academy and move up to Manchester that would be perfect for me.

‘That’s my dream.’