Haines lands silver in Serbia

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Ben Haines secured a silver medal in his first international competition since joining the Great Britain Academy full-time.

The 19-year-old, from Horndean, was in superb form in the Serbia Open.

He fought off rivals from Cyprus, Sweden, Iran and Bulgaria on his way to the final in the -74kg category.

Haines then came up against a tough opponent from Serbia.

The duo had met before and knew what to expect from each other.

Haines, who has now moved up to Manchester, where the GB Academy is based, pushed hard but couldn’t quite find the scoring touch.

Instead, it was the home fans who were celebrating the gold with a narrow win for their man on Sunday.

Haines said: ‘He was a good fighter – he fought Martin Stamper in the Olympics.

‘I’ve fought him before so we know each other.

‘It was quite an intense match after a long day.

‘We got up at 6.30am and we didn’t leave the arena until 10.40pm.

‘I think all my fights were pretty good.

‘They were all on a big stage in the middle of the arena.

‘I was really pleased with how I performed.

‘It was good to have my first competition under GB, as a full-time athlete. Standing on the podium felt good.’

Haines combined with GB coach Steve Jennings as they masterminded his route to the final.

They made the decision to stick with the game plan the Horndean star knows well from previous international successes.

That move clearly paid off with such an impressive display to win four fights and earn the silver medal.

‘Steve is a world class coach and knows how I work,’ said Haines.

‘We decided to stick to my strengths and use my game plan – we were on the same wavelength.’

There was a strong contingent from Great Britain out in Serbia.

There were also English clubs there – including British Taekwondo South where Haines trained previously.

He said: ‘BTS were there and they asked me to do some coaching so I did that on Saturday.

‘Liverpool taekwondo club were also in Serbia and they had lots of young players there.

‘They were cheering us all on. I was pretty disappointed straight after I lost the final but they were calling my name and it made you feel good.’

Before earning selection to the GB Academy full-time, Haines was training with the squad and having to earn money, as well as study.

Now his dream has come true with the move to Manchester and it’s already paying off.

Haines added: ‘Being part of the GB squad gives me confidence and reassurance.

‘I’ve been in Manchester for about four weeks now and it’s going really well.

‘My training is with the fighting chance group, who have recently joined the Academy, like me, and the elite group as well.

‘I’m training really hard. Sarah Stevenson, who is a World and Olympic medallist, is coaching us.

‘She’s a really good coach – she’s been there and done it.

‘The staff up here are really good, very helpful.’