Bianca Walkden rounded off her remarkable year by winning taekwondo’s richest ever first prize at the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions event in China.
The world number one and double world champion defeated American Jackie Galloway to claim the heavyweight (+67kg) crown and £52,000.
Liverpudlian Walkden performed cartwheels on the mat after her 10-2 win over fellow Rio 2016 bronze medallist, also throwing her shin guards into the crowd as the PA system played the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude.”
“I can buy a house now,” grinned the 26-year-old who was pre tournament favourite among the 12 invited athletes. GB Performance Director Gary Hall said of ‘Queen Bee’ “Well done, champ. End to a stunning year.”
Local favourite Zheng Shuyin who defeated the popular Brit on the way to Olympic Games glory at Rio 2016, was top seed but lost her opening fight.
Walkden progressed to the final in Wuxi with victories over South Korea’s Saebom An and Nafia Kus of Turkey.
Walkden, the first Briton to take part in the Grand Slam Champions’ series, had previously won four consecutive World Grand Prix victories in 2017, defended her world title, became World Taekwondo female athlete of the year and also was one of the contenders for BBC TV’s Sports Personality of the Year.
As well as aiming to boost the sport’s profile by offering total prize money across four separate weekends of £565,000, the Grand Slam Champions events feature new rules.
More points will be scored for extra spins and knockdowns and the modified rules could be introduced at Tokyo 2020. The final and bronze medal matches were both fought over five two-minute rounds, rather than the usual three rounds.
In the New Year, Walkden’s GB Taekwondo team mates, Lauren Williams (-67kg, January 6), Mahama Cho (+80kg, January 13), Charlie Maddock (-49kg, January 13) and Jade Jones (-57kg, January 20) will have their shots at a cash jackpot.