Golden-boy Haines hits top gear in Greek Open

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Fareham will be up for taking on Horndean. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

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Ben Haines helped the new crop of Great Britain taekwondo talent make a strong statement with a golden display in the Greek Open.

The Rio Olympic hopeful, from Horndean, picked up a gold medal at -74kg.

It was a great performance, especially after suffering some disappointment when not making the selection for the European Championships.

Haines, 20, showed his strength of character and superb temperament, as well as plenty of resolve.

He hit top gear in Kos, where the Great Britain squad picked up seven medals.

Haines said: ‘I kept my head up and trained hard for four weeks, prior to Greece.

‘The goal was to make an impact and I did that.

‘It was a good competition, with a high standard of players from all around the world.

‘I’m pleased to get a medal. I’ve been a bit unfortunate recently, losing on golden point in some matches.’

Haines, who is based full-time with the Great Britain Academy in Manchester, beat a Belgian opponent 12-7 in his first match.

He then came up against a Greek fighter, as well as the full force of the home crowd.

But that was never going to intimidate the cool customer.

He has the experience of competing in some hostile atmospheres in Europe and beyond in recent years.

Instead of being forced back, he comfortably saw off the home favourite 18-4.

In the final, Haines continued his dominant form as he beat Qatari Ahmed Saad 8-2.

It was his first international medal of 2014, building on silvers in Serbia and Sweden last year.

Haines said: ‘Overall I think my performance was quite good.

‘When I came up against the player from Greece, the home crowd was cheering for him.

‘I fed off that a bit. I’m very used to it from other competitions and I won pretty comfortably.’

Charlie Maddock and Taylor Shaw also picked up gold medals for GB in Greece.

The more senior members of the squad have since impressed at the European Championships in Azerbaijan, where they picked up seven medals – including a cherished gold for Bianca Walkden at +73kg.

Next up for Haines, who started out at Cowplain Taekwondo Academy, is likely to be the Swiss Open, followed by a trip to Korea for training and competition.