DONCASTER’S Bradly Sinden was crowned Britain’s first men’s gold medallist on a controversial night at the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester.
While there was only sheer joy for the 20-year-old Yorkshireman, it contrasted sharply with British team-mate Bianca Walkden, who was booed to her historic third world title.
Walkden claimed her third consecutive gold when her opponent, China’s Zheng Shuyin, was disqualified midway through the final round for repeated infringements, despite holding a 10-point lead at the time.
The 27-year-old Walkden then found herself in the unlikely position of celebrating her title amid loud boos, while Zheng – who had denied Walkden a place in the Olympic final in Rio – collapsed in the centre of the mat.
Walkden’s travails made Sinden’s success seem like a cakewalk as he came from behind at the end of the first round to defeat Javier Polo Perez of Spain and win the men’s -68kg title.
The 20-year-old, who had won world bronze on his debut two years ago, showed maturity beyond his years as he pulled away with a series of accurate body shots in the final round.
When I went to my first World Championships two years ago I was disappointed to get bronze. But I have worked hard and learned from my mistakes and I am ready for the Olympics now.Doncaster’s world champions, Bradly Sinden
His victory, having defeated former world champion Lee Dae-hoon in Thursday’s semi-final, saw him follow in the footsteps of his hometown inspiration, the former double world champion and Olympic medallist Sarah Stevenson.
Sinden said: “I was brought up in an area that was a bit rough and having people like that shows you that you can do what you want if you put your mind to it.
“A lot of this has come from her. Not just for me but the funding that came with her winning the world title and that first Olympic medal.
“When I went to my first World Championships two years ago I was disappointed to get bronze. But I have worked hard and learned from my mistakes and I am ready for the Olympics now.”
Trailing 20-10 at the time of the expulsion, Walkden had responded by employing the legitimate tactic of forcing Zheng into making errors – the majority of which involved stepping out of the ring.
And despite the negative response which continued on the podium where Zheng again had to be helped to her feet by UK Sport chair Katherine Grainger, a defiant Walkden – the first Briton to win three world crowns – insisted she would do it all again.
“I went out there needing to find a different way to win and a win is a win if you disqualify someone – it’s not my fault,” said an emotional Walkden.
“People can have their opinions but I’m standing here as world champion. I wouldn’t change it for the world – I would do exactly the same thing again.”
The Chinese delegation reacted furiously in front of the officials but could do little to prevent a manner of victory which is clearly accepted – and not even especially rare – within the sport’s code.
Elsewhere, Jade Jones remained on course for her first world title after beating Canada’s Skylar Park 18-12 to book her place in today’s -57kg final.
Jones, who has won silver and bronze medals in previous World Championships, admitted she was forced to work harder than she had hoped in order to win.
Jones said: “I just came off my game plan a little bit and lost it mentally, but I managed to finish it off and that is the main thing.
“I don’t particularly feel any more pressure because I haven’t won it before or because it’s a home crowd. There’s always pressure on me and it’s just that sometimes you’re not ‘on it’ as much as others.”