COVENTRY taekwondo star Jamaal Otto believes an inside knowledge of the competition venue can play to his advantage when he returns to defend his BUCS Nationals crown in Sheffield this week.
Otto will join thousands of other university students in heading to the Steel City from February 19-21 for the largest annual multi-sport event in the UK.
Last year the international relations student bagged himself not only gold in the men’s senior kumite -87kg category, but also helped Coventry University to overall victory in the men’s kumite category.
And while a recent outing at the European Under-21 Championships in Cyprus ended in disappointment with just one victory, Otto believes returning to Ponds Forge – venue for National Championships – can help him rediscover his winning touch.
“Last year at BUCS, I managed to get gold in the individual -84kg event and the men’s team event so I want to try and repeat that this year,” he said.
“For me, it’s a chance to represent my university and do them proud. I feel comfortable competing at high level now. I started competing at senior level competitions last year.
“It’s also held at the same venue where we have the English National Championships so it all feels very familiar. Some competitions you go to, you don’t feel comfortable at but I do BUCS, it’s a great atmosphere.
Otto’s main target for this year is to step up his level on the senior circuit, with both European and World Championships taking place before the year is out.
A bout of appendicitis ended the 20-year-old’s hopes of success at last November’s Junior World Championships in Indonesia.
And while it took some time for Otto to recover after undergoing an operation, Otto is starting to look ahead once again.
He added: “It was upsetting at it was my last year at that level. When I think about having to miss them and the fact I will never have another chance to do it, that’s tough.
“But the aim for this year is the senior World Championships which are in October.”
British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, representing more than 150 institutions. Covering 52 sports, BUCS aids grass roots participation through to supporting aspiring elite athletes en route to Commonwealth or Olympic Games www.bucs.org.uk.