Stevenson thinks positive thoughts

22 June 2012 / 14:30

Sarah Stevenson admits 2012 did not quite turn out to be the fresh start she was hoping for, but the British taekwondo star was always confident of fighting her way back into Olympic contention.

To say the last year had been testing for the Doncaster fighter - who claimed bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing - - would be a major understatement, with both of Stevenson's parents losing their battle against terminal illness within months of each other.

Yet despite her personal anguish, the 29-year-old still delivered a golden performance in May 2011 to win her second World Championship title in Gyeongju, South Korea, leading Team GB's four-medal haul.

After taking some time away from the sport, Stevenson - who was named Sunday Times Sports Woman of the Year and also appointed MBE in the 2012 New Year Honours - returned to training with the rest of the elite GB Taekwondo Manchester Academy at the start of the year, only to then suffer ligament damage while away at a camp in Mexico which required surgery.

Stevenson always remained positive she would return to full fitness in time for selection onto the London Olympics squad.

"I was hoping for 2012 to be a fresh start, but it didn't happen as I got injured. However, I have just kept getting on through each day, now I am here," Stevenson said. "I am still going to the Olympics, so I am not in any different situation to what I thought I would be.

"I never doubted I was not going to go to the Olympics, not for one second.

"I knew that we had a good team of doctors and physios, I have seen it (recovery) happen before, and I don't see there was any reason I should have doubted I was not going to go.

"It would not have got me through every day thinking 'oh no, I might not go', so I thought 'what is the point of thinking like that?'

"It was the thought of going that got me through. My rehab was training for the Olympics, that is how I saw it."

Stevenson, who is coached by her husband Steve Jennings, openly admits she is now "a totally different person" from the fighter who collected bronze in Beijing after a scoring error was overturned.

She said: "When you have gone through something like I have, you change.

"Now the Olympics is not the be-all and end-all of me, which it was in Beijing. That helps me to probably enjoy it more."

Olympic gold may be the only thing missing from Stevenson's "little collection", but she is not about to let that consume her thoughts over the run-in to the London Games

"I don't dwell on the Olympics being unfinished business, I just focus on being there and doing my best," she said.

"With everything I have been through, it is not really a big issue.

"I just have to take the competition for what it is and go for it.

"But of course it would be great to win gold, it would finish my little collection off and would be amazing if it happens."

The selection row over the exclusion of world number one Aaron Cook in favour of Lutalo Muhammad, also European champion but at a higher weight division, has seen taekwondo make some unwanted headlines.

The saga continues to drag on, with the British Olympic Association considering fresh submissions from Cook's representatives, while the World Taekwondo Federation are also conducting their own review.

Stevenson, though, would rather just get on with fine-tuning preparations for hitting peak form at the ExCeL in August.

"A few weeks ago, it was tough because the fact the three people who were selected got jaded by all the rubbish which was going on," said Stevenson, who along with Wales' Jade Jones, 19, and Liverpool fighter Martin Stamper were the other fighters ratified for Team GB.

"But it is not just taekwondo, it is every sport - not everyone gets to go to the Olympics, so you just have to get on with it.

"We just have to focus on our job at the Olympics.

"We really should start to get excited about it now, leaving all the rubbish behind and focus on training."