Headhunter Jones Chases The Dollar In Chinese Super Show

By Rob Cole

Jade Jones will have a £52,000 top prize in the back of her mind when she attempts to underline her status as the world No.1 in the -57kg category in the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series.

The new style competition, that has changed rules and promises to introduce a bit of ‘Hollywood’ into the event, kicks-off in Wuxi, near Shanghai, this weekend and features the Women’s +67kg and the Men’s -80kg Olympic weight categories. The remaining six Olympic weight categories will be contested over successive Saturdays and the series concludes on 27 January, 2018, with a team championships.

The 24-year-old double Olympic champion Jones secured her second successive World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final title with a dominant display in the Ivory Coast earlier this month to end the year as the World No 1. That victory made it back-to-back Grand Prix final titles as she further enhanced her global status with a crushing win over Spain’s Marta Calvo-Gomez 26-7 in a one-sided final.

The Grand Slam series invites the world’s finest players – Olympic, World and Grand Prix champions – to fight for the biggest prize money in the history of Taekwondo – $70,000 US for winners, $20,000 for runners up and $5,000 for bronze medalists.

The venue has been custom-designed for TV, with Hollywood style sound and lighting effects. The event will be broadcast to an expected audience of millions via terrestrial and online TV. Experimental rules are being applied to encourage the most crowd-pleasing techniques – spinning kicks and powerful blows – and to reward offensive play.

“We have had a dream for this type of championships to take taekwondo to the next level, and that means more exposure to TV and other media platforms,” said WT Technical Committee Chairman Jin-bang Yang.

“We have been in the Olympics for nearly 20 years and made pretty good progress, but we are not at the highest level yet. For the next level of development, we need this type of game.”

The venue at the Wuxi Taihu International Expo Center looks like a TV studio, not a sports venue and organisers are expecting 5-8 million viewers to watch online.

The rule changes, which if successful will be applied to regular Taekwondo prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, should favour Jones, aka ‘The Head Hunter’. To make the bouts as viewer-friendly as possible extra points have been added for the most spectacular techniques.

It means spinning kicks to the torso will gain four points, and to the head, Jones’ speciality, five points. To encourage powerful strikes, fighters who knock down their opponent will be awarded an extra five points, signalled by a standing count from the referee.

Defensive play and back-pedaling will be penalised and any player who sets even one foot outside the matted area will suffer a gamjeom. The “monkey kick” – tapping the opponent’s torso protector with the side of the foot in the clinch, a technique that is taught in no taekwondo class – will be disallowed.

Jones is ranked No 1 in her weight category – the only Briton to enjoy that status – but it will be Liverpudlian world champion Bianca Walkden who gets the Brits underway in the +67kg class this weekend. She is ranked No 2 to China’s Shuyin Zheng.

Jones will get into action in the fourth round on 20 January.


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