BEN HAINES is ready to take his game up a notch after gaining priceless experience alongside Great Britain’s top stars on a recent trip to South Korea.
The Horndean talent joined the likes of Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones and semi-finalist Martin Stamper in the Great Britain travelling party to the home of taekwondo.
It was an important step forward for the reigning British champion at under-74kg as he picked up some valuable tips from the Olympians.
He was also faced with some tough Korean opponents but relished the challenge.
Haines, 18, said: ‘It was a really good trip. The Korean students welcomed us but they weren’t too nice when we were sparring them.
‘Sparring out there got really intense.
‘I was winning one of my matches but then I stepped in and got caught with a head shot.
‘Martin Stamper came over to me and said “what were you doing?”
‘He was kind of joking but you take the comment on board.
‘He gave me some feedback and it clicked straight away. You don’t make the same mistake again and I didn’t.
‘I was training with people who have been to the Olympics.
‘It was an amazing experience and opportunity. When they tell you something, you have got to listen.’
The next big target for Haines, who has been nominated in the young sportsman of the year category in The News Sports Awards, is a place in the World Championships in Mexico later this year.
A strong performance at the Swedish Open this weekend would help his cause and the South Downs College student is keen to deliver.
He added: ‘I feel sharp in training. Hopefully I can show how much I have improved and to medal would be a big bonus.
‘I am going to do some tactical training, to change my game a little bit. I learned from the Koreans – watching them spar.
‘A lot of good things are happening – including being nominated for The News Sports Award – so I have to keep doing what I am doing and work harder and harder.’
The long-term goal for Haines, who trains with the GB squad twice a week in Manchester, is to win a place at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
To do that he has to continue regularly competing abroad, honing his skills against top-quality opponents.
Financially it is difficult and finding sponsorship could be key to helping Haines maximise his talent.
He added: ‘It is difficult as I have to be able to train and not be thinking about the money side of things.
‘Sponsorship would help so much and really take the weight off my mind.’
For details about sponsorship opportunities, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org