BEN HAINES had to battle a hand injury as well as some high-quality opposition as he looked to press his claims for European and world championship selection.
The teenager, from Horndean, powered through to the quarter-finals of the German Open in Hamburg – seeing off some major European contenders along the way.
Unfortunately, he was denied a medal shot after a golden point defeat to eventual -74kg runner-up Muhammet Tahla Sari in the last eight.
That all came after Haines fractured his hand in his first fight which he won 7-1 against Slovenian national team member Jan Veleusic.
From then on the 19-year-old had the ability to score with punches largely removed from his weaponry.
He said: ‘In my first match I got kicked on the hand.
‘My hand was shaking. I took my glove off and it just blew up like a balloon. It was really swollen.
‘After the match, the physio looked at my hand and said it was a fracture.
‘It’s an injury that happens a lot so I was able to put a plastic mould around it and I carried on.’
Haines realised in his next fight against Azerbaijan national team member Ilkin Shabazov – a European champion – that punching was not the way to go.
He added: ‘I decided to punch him and I went “oh man” and pulled my hand behind my back. It really was painful.
‘I won that on golden point, though.
‘We knew how he played, and even though it was 4-4 after the third round, I was in control of the match.’
Haines then eased through against a fighter from Belarus with a 7-3 success, before his run came to an end in the quarter-final battle with Sari.
That contest ended on golden point and it was a disappointing outcome for the 19-year-old British champion at -74kg.
Haines added: ‘Punching is part of my game plan but I couldn’t really do that.
‘I lost on golden point. Like me, he was a very front-legged player, so it was mostly a battle with front legs.
‘It went to golden point and I kicked him in the head right in front of the ref.
‘He didn’t score it and we should have carded it.
‘But my coach said he didn’t have a card and then the guy caught me underneath.
‘Overall, the event was good and the atmosphere was amazing.
‘In some weight categories you only have to win one or two fights to medal but I had four good fights.’
The big guns from British taekwondo were out in force in the event.
Olympic hero Jade Jones picked up her first gold medal since the Games.
Fellow Olympian Martin Stamper won a sensational battle-of-Britain contest with Michael Harvey on his way to triumphing at -68kg.
Nottingham’s Ruebyn Richards won gold in Haines’ category as he beat Sari in the final.
For Haines, the focus now is on doing as much training as he can ahead of the European under-21 championships, which start on April 18 in Moldova.
He added: ‘My hand will take six weeks to fully heal but I can do some strength training and in three weeks I will be able to kick again.’
Haines is looking for sponsorship to help with the costs of competing overseas.
If anyone is able to help out, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org