Haines makes flying start on Middle East tour

Ben Haines
Ben Haines
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Ben Haines kicked off what promises to be a fast and furious 2014 with strong displays in back-to-back competitions in the Middle East.

The 19-year-old, from Horndean, was in action in Egypt and then Dubai.

First up was the Luxor Open, as Haines reached the quarter-finals in the -68kg category.

He then went on to Dubai, where he won his first fight, before narrowly losing his second as his busy Great Britain schedule was ramped up a notch.

Haines started the tour with a strong performance against a rival from Ukraine.

He then narrowly missed out on a medal, losing on golden point sudden death to a Spanish player.

There was no time to rest as the squad flew on to Dubai for the Fuijairah Open.

Haines, who is permanently based in Manchester, at GB headquarters, delivered a strong performance to win 5-1 against his first opponent, from Kuwait.

His progress was then halted by a narrow 1-0 defeat in the second round.

Both competitions provided more valuable experience.

Haines said: ‘Going from one competition straight to another was a good experience.

‘I was only a whisker away from a medal in Egypt.

‘My first match was good. I was 4-0 down after the first round but after that I was fine. I had two good rounds and won it 9-6.

‘Then it was straight on to my next match against Spain.

‘I was a bit sleepy in the first round but got it back to 6-6.

‘It went to golden point – unfortunately my points were registering not high enough and his one registered.

‘It was so close, it could have gone either way.

‘In Dubai, my first match was against a player from Kuwait and I won that 5-1. It was quite comfortable.

‘I hit him with a head shot in the first couple of seconds.

‘The second match was against the same guy I fought in the French Open, in December, when he beat me 10-2.

‘It was 1-0 this time. It was so close – we both knew our game plans.’

While the Great Britain squad was in Egypt, tragedy struck with the death of Turkish athlete Seyithan Akbalik.

The 20-year-old suffered a suspected cardiac arrest after his competition.

Despite the tragedy, organisers decided the event could continue and every fight was dedicated to Akbalik’s memory.

Haines said: ‘It was a sad atmosphere around the competition.

‘We were called in for a meeting. They considered stopping it.

‘But one of the Turkish players carried on and she won her weight category. That was a special victory.’

Haines’ next competition could be the upcoming Dutch Open.

He’s hoping to build on his performances in the Middle East.

‘It’s a hard competition – with lots of matches,’ said Haines.

‘The standard is really high. It’s not like a world championship but it’s the next step down.

‘The target is the Europeans at the end of the year.

‘If I perform well, there could be a good opportunity to go to this.

‘I just have to get my head down and continue to work hard.’