Triple taekwondo world champion Bianca Walkden insists she would swap in her medal collection for a maiden Olympic title at next summer’s Games.
The 28-year-old claimed bronze on her first Olympic appearance in Rio three years ago, and has since added two world titles to her first global crown in Russia, in 2015.
But it’s the semi-final defeat in Brazil that still hangs heavy for Walkden, missing out on a shot at taekwondo’s ultimate prize, admitting a slight tinge of disappointment ever since.
Despite being the reigning world champion and the current global number one in the women’s heavyweight division, the Liverpool-born star insists she won’t rest until she can finally call herself an Olympic champion.
Great day today at Lewis street #TravelToTokyo - Everyone was so active!! Remember everyone to keep a log of your actives to win lots of prizes - Visit @GetSetClub to get more Info- Can’t wait for the next challenge & too see how everyone is progressing 💪🏽💕 #TeamGB #taekwondo pic.twitter.com/g4BFWUpRsr— Bianca Walkden TKD (@BiancaW_tkd) October 2, 2019
Speaking in attendance at the Get Set: Travel to Tokyo campaign in Manchester, she said: “Despite my success at the World Championships, winning at the Olympics has 100 per cent been on my mind since I took bronze in Rio.
“I shouldn’t say I was disappointed with third place, but I had my mind set on gold and it just wasn’t to be.
“I knew then, with the way the draw had panned out, I was likely to win the bronze or the gold, and standing now as a triple world champion, double European champion and the current world number one, I feel I need Olympic gold to complete the set.
“I just feel it’s part of me and I’m focused on giving my heart and soul to ensure I walk away with the title next summer.”
Walkden was speaking as part of Get Set, Team GB and ParalympicsGB’s youth engagement programme, Travel to Tokyo, featuring £2.6 million of National Lottery funding from Sport England, and support from partners including ukactive.
The programme aims to inspire young people aged 5–11, their classmates and families to try new activities and get active together in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Walkden claimed her most recent world crown in Manchester in May, forcing Rio 2016 champion Shuyin Zheng to concede a series of penalties which saw her disqualified in the final.
The pair have enjoyed a high-profile rivalry in recent times, and the Brit was on the losing side at their last meeting in September’s Grand Prix final in Japan.
Walkden expects Zheng to be in the mix at the business end of proceedings again next summer, and insists results at any competitions other than the Olympics are now largely irrelevant in her eyes.
“Not many people in taekwondo have a rivalry, but I love a Rocky film and I think it’s a good thing,” she said.
“I got silver last time out, but to me every competition now is just good practice leading up to the Olympic Games.
“I’ve set myself on a good path to qualify so everything now is pointed towards learning, improving and maximising my chances in Tokyo.
“I’m always confident in myself and I know if I train hard and get everything right in the gym, I’ve got a really good chance.”
You can get involved in Travel to Tokyo youth engagement programme by visiting getset.co.uk/families