Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden set for training return as Manchester base reopens

Taekwondo world champions Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden will be among the first Team GB Olympians to return to training next week.

GB Taekwondo is set to reopen its Manchester training base from next Tuesday to around three-quarters of its elite athletes, following the government’s easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

They will be supported by a skeleton staff at the venue, and will be restricted to individual programmes unless – like Jones and Walkden – they are members of the same household.

Jade Jones
Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden can resume official sparring next week (Martin Rickett/PA)

GB Taekwondo chief executive Matt Archibald told the PA news agency: “The athletes have been pushing to get back into training because they like the environment and they are such hard trainers.

“We’re in a positive position and no-one seems to be raising any barriers to re-starting – there are just processes that are ongoing but they’re getting knocked over one by one.

“We’re confident that we are going to get three-quarters of the squad back in phase one.”

TeamGB Olympic Taekwondo Team Announcement – National Taekwondo Centre
GB Taekwondo’s training base will reopen next week (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Strict rules mean the athletes – expected to number around 18 – will attend the venue in small groups, and must undergo risk-assessments and antibody tests before returning.

The coaches and staff designated to each group will wear personal protective equipment, and access routes have been simplified to minimise contact. All but essential support staff will continue to work remotely.

Many other Olympic sports, in particular those which are based at multi-sport venues such as Loughborough University and the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, remain some weeks from a return.

Anthony Joshua Media Session – English institute of Sport
The English Institute of Sport remains closed to elite athletes (Dave Thompson/PA)

The EIS, which houses, among others, the elite boxing and para-table tennis programmes, said this week there is still “plenty of work to be done” prior to enabling access for its elite programmes.

In a statement, the EIS said: “We welcome the publication of this guidance and the hard work of the experts from across Olympic, Paralympic and professional sport in producing it, but we are conscious there is plenty of work to be done before we can be confident that training environments are suitable for our people, as well as athletes and support staff.”

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