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Interview: Martin Stamper bemoans judges' call in European Games quarter-final

:Headline: Interview: Martin Stamper bemoans judges' call in European Games quarter-final:
Sports Mole speaks to Team GB taekwondo player Martin Stamper about his performances at the European Games, where he needs to improve and his plans for the future.
By , Editor | 4y

Team GB taekwondo player Martin Stamper has claimed that a decision from the judges that went against him changed his European Games quarter-final against Alexey Denisenko this afternoon.

Stamper beat Filip Grgic 18-13 in a thrilling preliminary match to set up a quarter-final tie against the number one seed, only to go down 18-6 at the hands of the Russian.

However, at 2-0 Denisenko was awarded a three-point head-kick which Stamper claimed he managed to block with his hand, and the 28-year-old believes that the video replay which went against him was a turning point in the match.

Even after the defeat, Stamper still had hope of winning bronze through the repechage, but Denisenko's loss to home favourite Aykhan Taghizade in the semi-finals confirmed his exit from the inaugural European Games.

Once his fate was sealed, the London 2012 Olympian spoke to Sports Mole about his performances, where he needs to improve and his plans for the future.


How would you assess how the day has gone for you?

"First fight, especially first round, it was exactly what I wanted, to implement my strengths. I think in the last few competitions I've been fighting a little bit safe, and my strength is to spin and combo and open up.

"The first round was perfect, and then I went into my shell a little bit. I ended the fight strong and beat a good player, and then I tried to be similar in the second fight, but he's just too good at these new-school flicks. I didn't know where half of his points were coming from.

"He just has this knack of touching the body armour and scoring. It's been a bit disappointing - I did think he'd get through, but he's just lost to Azerbaijan, so I've got no chance of the bronze now, which is disappointing. Just back to the training ground now."

Is there anything more you could have done in the quarters, or were you simply outfought?

"It's difficult because I'm not the type of player to keep the match really tight. I've done taekwondo for over 20 years and I've come through where it used to be normal scoring and it's exciting taekwondo.

"These new breed of players - I've tried to adapt my game a little bit, and maybe I could have fought safer and tried to keep the match like Azerbaijan did - just getting tight to him and stopping him. I maybe could have done that a bit more and then maybe opened up, but I had a gameplan, and it just didn't go to plan in the end."

Your opening match was the highest-scoring and one of the most entertaining of the Games so far. Were you trying to be even more eye-catching than normal because you were a late call-up to the squad?

"No. Like I say, I was just trying to play to my strengths. With it being three points for the spins now, I thought he was quite open for the spin. I caught him with one, but it just wasn't enough. I needed two or three to stay in the game.

"I was just fighting to my strengths - three points for a spin and that's my strength, so I tried to implement that. But like I said, he was just too good on the day."


There was a rejected review in the quarter-final when you thought that you managed to get your hand in the way of a kick to the head...

"Yeah, that's pretty much what changed it. At 2-0 I was thinking 'OK' because I knew I was going to catch him with a spin, which is three points. So 2-0 I was fine with, and then when he threw that it was right at the end of the round as well. I thought that definitely swung the match.

"I managed to get my hand there. If I'm honest it felt like my hand just hit my face, but on the TV it looked like some part of his foot might have hit my face. It was the judge's call - I don't think he would have reviewed it if the judges didn't stand up, but they did.

"That's kind of what changed the match - it was difficult for me from there, because he's got long legs, to get in from distance and score the points to bring the match back."

There was an electric atmosphere for Denisenko's semi-final against Taghizade - I suppose you must have been in a small minority of people cheering on the Russian...

"Yeah, I thought the home favourite got a little bit lucky with a headshot, but like I said I thought [Denisenko] was going to win quite comfortably. He looked on it in the first match and in the second match, obviously against me.

"But this new breed of players, they don't tend to look that great or look like they're doing much, but it's effective and I probably need to bring more of that into my game."

Is it more satisfying as a fighter to entertain the crowd along the way?

"It is nice. I've been in some great matches when the score was 18-12, I remember one against Russia in the Europeans that was 16-14 to me, which swung both ways. They're good, exciting matches, but that's usually when I fight at my best.

"I'd like to tighten up a bit more and not concede as many points, but that's usually when I'm flowing. If you ask me [what I did] when I get off the mat, sometimes I wouldn't be able to tell you because I'm just in that zone.

"I felt like that [today], especially first round. I dominated him in that first fight, it's just maybe tactically I should have tried to keep it tighter against Russia, but he's a class player. I've got Australia in the next two weeks, so hopefully I'll learn some lessons and put them into practice in Australia."


Are you ambitious of medalling in Australia?

"Yeah, the numbers aren't big but there is some quality in my weight. [There are] Olympic and World medallists there, so it's going to be tough. [Denisenko] is Olympic and World medallist this year. Obviously Azerbaijan beat him today, but not many people beat him - he's won every Open this year.

"So he's where I need to be. I think there is a bit of a gap to the rest of the players, minus probably Turkey, who wasn't on it tonight. That's where I'm aiming to be. I've got Australia and then I'll be in the grands prix, so I just need to work on things in training and put them in on the mat."

Where do you see your ambitions of making the Rio Olympics after today?

"It's going to be difficult. I'm not going to give up. I've got two ways really. Obviously automatically qualifying for the Olympics itself is going to be very difficult. I've got a few points from here which will secure me into the grands prix, but I'd probably have to win two of the grands prix and then get in the top eight and see what happens then.

"So it's going to be really difficult. The other way - obviously not wishing bad on anyone - but we've got -80kg, which we've got two guys doing really well in Damon [Sansum] and Lutalo [Muhammad], and then we've got heavyweights where [Mahama] Cho is doing well.

"If any of those guys don't get in the top six then - say Cho is not in the top six at the end of the year - then GB select a weight to send to a European qualifiers to qualify for the Olympics. So that's the other chance I've got. I'm just going to keep on fighting, try not to think about the points and get my performances up, and hopefully the results will follow." body check tags ::

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Premier League Table
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool16151040142646
2Leicester CityLeicester16122239102938
3Manchester CityMan City16102444192532
4Chelsea169253124729
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd166642519624
6Wolverhampton WanderersWolves165922319424
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs166553023723
8Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd165741916322
9Arsenal165742424022
10Crystal Palace166461418-422
11Newcastle UnitedNewcastle166461723-622
12Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton165472024-419
13Burnley165382129-818
14Everton165291928-917
15Bournemouth164481824-616
16West Ham UnitedWest Ham164481828-1016
17Aston Villa164392328-515
18Southampton164391835-1715
19Norwich CityNorwich1632111734-1711
20Watford16169930-219
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