‘British Euro glory may inspire Tokyo gold rush,’ says taekwondo star Walkden


Rio 2016 bronze medalist and football fan Bianca Walkden is aiming for first place at the Tokyo Games this summer © REUTERS

Recent exploits in English football have made taekwondo star Bianca Walkden want to succeed, with the Liverpool native offering to help the GB team ‘bring it all home’ from Tokyo this summer.

A big football fan, the 29-year-old was glued to the TV screen as Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions edged closer to Euro glory with a last-16 victory over Germany, establishing an enticing game in the quarterfinals with Ukraine on Saturday night. .

Such scenes struck a chord with bronze medalist Rio Walkden, who had previously used her beloved Liverpool Champions League victory as fuel to succeed on the world stage in 2019.

The first place on the Olympic stage is the only accolade missing from the three-time world and European champion’s glittering list of accomplishments, and she hopes Harry Kane and co. can kick off a summer the whole country will remember.

“We are leaving for the Games a day after the Euro final so hopefully we will try to emulate England’s performance on the pitch,” said Walkden, who is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to support the GB team on their trip to Tokyo.

“I watched almost all the matches in the tournament! Having such a great sports competition coming back after lockdown and everything has been exciting, and it certainly made the Olympics more real.

“The whole country supports the football team which is great to see and hearing the national anthem inspires all of us athletes. I want to hear this national anthem in Japan because I won the gold medal!

“I feel ready to go out there and play now. I know the +67kg field is full of strong opponents and it won’t be easy, but I’ve had a strong training camp and you have to be confident in your own abilities.

Walkden’s competitive spirit is apparently not confined to the mat, with football sparking rivalries between her and her family and closest friends, including her roommate and two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones.

“Being Welsh Jade was devastated when they came out against Denmark,” she said. “We like competition a bit, and it was really good to have one on her.

“My family is Italian on my mom’s side, so my WhatsApp comes out whenever they’re in action. I have a soft spot for Italy and I hope they will make it to the final but will then be beaten by England!

In addition to football, Walkden’s desire for Olympic action was heightened with the unveiling of a mural depicting local support for the GB team on Brick Street in Liverpool, as part of Purplebricks’ pledge to support the country’s athletes in the Japanese capital.

Pupils at Blueberry Park Primary School contributed their ideas to one of ten artistic prints from across the UK, which are unveiled during a relay ahead of the Games.

Walkden added: “We know we’re going to do without our home fans in Tokyo, so initiatives like this really make you realize that your country – and in this case my hometown – is all behind you.

“My face is on the mural, which makes me really proud. I am a born and raised Scouser and proud of it. I hope I can get this gold medal for the city.

Purplebricks is working with local communities, athletes and artists to create commemorative murals for the GB team, encouraging the nation to show support at home and support athletes at the Tokyo Olympics. Visit @PurplebricksUK or https://www.purplebricks.co.uk/team-gb

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