Haines beings British reign but eyes world glory

New -74kg British taekwondo champion Ben Haines
New -74kg British taekwondo champion Ben Haines
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He’s conquered the best Britain has to offer – next it’s Europe and then the world for newly-crowned national taekwondo champion Ben Haines.

The talent from Horndean has his sights firmly set on the Rio 2016 Olympics and any obstacles that stand in his way will be quickly knocked down.

Haines, 18, is progressing at a rapid rate.

In his first year in the seniors, he powered to victory in the British National Championships at -74kg.

Now, having reached the top of the tree in domestic taekwondo, Haines will turn his attentions to the European stage.

The British Taekwondo South club member heads to Serbia in October, where he will be targeting a medal, before moving on to competitions in Croatia and France.

‘Ben has progressed as far as he can in domestic taekwondo – he’s top in this country,’ said Haines’ mum, Helen.

‘He only started fighting in February of last year and it is great to win a national title in his first year in the seniors.

‘The Rio Olympics are his main long-term goal but the European stage is next.’

Haines won four fights at the Manchester Velodrome to be crowned British champion.

His final victory was wrapped up in sensational style, with a second-round knockout seeing off Samuel Jones, of Evolution TKD.

The contests certainly made for dramatic viewing, but Helen admitted it was tough watching on.

She said: ‘It was quite nerve-racking during the first fight.

‘Your heart goes into your knees.

‘After the first fight you settle down a bit.

‘Ben was ecstatic and happy to win but the first thing he did was pick his opponent up after.

‘That sort of respect is absolutely what taekwondo is all about.’

Taekwondo shot to prominence in the build-up to the Olympics, with the row over the non-selection of world number one Aaron Cook to the Team GB squad.

But the sport was back in the spotlight for the right reasons, when Jade Jones secured Olympic gold and Lutalo Muhammad – who was selected ahead of Cook – grabbed a bronze.

Muhammad has since become one of the flag bearers for the sport in this country.

He presented black belt Haines with his national gold medal in Manchester.

It’s now over to Haines, who benefits from government funding through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), as he aims to follow in Muhammad’s footsteps.

Haines has earned praise from GB Taekwondo performance director, Gary Hall, who has promised to keep an eye on his progress.

Helen added: ‘He trains four times a week with BTS and also trains on his own on top of that.

‘He has a makeshift gym in my conservatory.

‘GB Taekwondo have marked him down as a potential world-class athlete.’