British champion Taekwondo star Sarah Stevenson on her Yorkshire life

PUBLISHED: 14:27 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 February 2013

Sarah Stevenson

Sarah Stevenson

Sarah Stevenson - British champion Taekwondo star and Olympic Bronze medallist - tells Tony Greenway (a black belt in macramé) about her Yorkshire life

Doncaster-born Sarah Stevenson is rather good at the Korean martial art of Taekwondo. How good? Well, last August she came home from Beijing wearing an Olympic Bronze medal around her neck - the first medal Team GB has ever won in the sport. And she's also a World Championship gold and silver medallist.

So, you know: that good. Sarah, now 25, started Taekwondo at the Doncaster Allstars club. A former Junior World Champion, she qualified for the Sydney Games in 2000 and the Athens Games in 2004, but came away empty handed both times (just missing out on a medal in Sydney).

Things were different in Beijing, although her journey to the Bronze looked shaky when she controversially lost her quarter-final to Olympic holder Chen Zhong, despite landing an obvious boutwinning high-kick to Chen's head in the last seconds of the final round. After Sarah protested, the judges re-viewed footage of the fight and the decision was reversed. Sarah was back in the game. She lost her semi-final, but beat Egypt's Noha Abd Rabo to scoop the bronze - and is now the most famous martial artist in the country. Not to mention Yorkshire.

Q: How do you feel about your experience at the Beijing Olympics?

A: Um. I don't know what to say, because I experienced so many different emotions. It wasn't good, bad or disappointing. It was all
of those things. So many different things happened to me out there.

Q: When you were erroneously 'knocked out' in the quarter finals, you must have been very upset. What did you feel at that moment?

A: Like I was never supposed to win that fight, no matter what I did. I was numb. I thought there was no point in getting angry and shouting and screaming, because nothing was going to be done (by the judges), and I'd only show myself up on TV. During the bout, I was the one doing all the work and (Chen, the Chinese fighter) was acting as though she didn't even want to be there. Even with all that - and me getting in a head shot at the end - the judges still said I'd lost. It was unbelievable that people could take away from me what I'd worked so hard for. Mind you, I never expected them to change their decision either - that just doesn't happen.

Q: But it did, thankfully. So when you were back in the game, could you put what had happened to the back of your mind?

A: I had wanted to fight perfectly at the Olympics. I wanted it all to go smoothly. It didn't - and so in the semi-final I was upset with myself. My emotions were all up the wall. One minute I was thinking my Olympics had ended. The next, the judges were saying: 'As you were - you're on again in 10 minutes.' It was really hard to focus.

Q: Not helped by China's home crowd who were booing, the spoilsports.

A: Yeah, they were booing a lot. And that really did affect me, to be honest. I wasn't 100 per cent focussed anyway by that point so that put me off even more. All these things affected the way I fought, but I still think I could have won the semi because I've beaten her (Mexican fighter Maria del Rosario Espinoza) before. I know I could win gold because I'm good enough to do that. But I also know you can't control if you do or not. It was all hard to take in, really.

Q: On the plus side, Sarah, you are an Olympic medallist. It doesn't get any better than that, does it?

A: That's great, obviously. But it was hard to be really happy with all the things that had happened. In the end, for me, it was always about doing my best. If they hadn't reversed the decision of the quarter finals, I would have been upset, but I'd still have known that I'd done my best and I'd have been all right with that.

Q: How did you get into Taekwondo?

A: I was seven at the time. My brother had joined a club in Doncaster. I used to go and watch and then, when I was old enough, I joined in and ended up doing it three or four times a week. My brother was pretty good, but he got to that teenage time in his life when he was more concerned about girls and going out. It took his focus away.

Q: Why wasn't your focus taken away?

A: I don't know. I don't think he was as mentally tough as me. I just did what I was told. If the coach asked me to train, I'd go, whereas my brother would be: 'No, I'm going out instead.' My coach would tell you I wasn't a natural. I just worked really hard.

Q: Film star Jackie Chan was sponsoring you around the time of the Sydney Olympics. Did you meet him?

A: I did. He had a film out and the premier was in London.We went down and did a demonstration for him and had pictures taken with him. He was really nice. I was a fan of his, but I'm even more of one now after meeting him. Plus he sent us a bit of money. I don't have any sponsors now, though, so if anyone is interested.

Q: How long can you carry on in Taekwondo?

A: I'm lucky because I'm doing something I really enjoy, and not many people can say that. As long as I'm not injured, I'd love to compete in London 2012. I don't know how long I can carry on in the sport.When you get into your 30s, that's when you usually stop, I think.When I retire I'll want to still be involved in Taekwondo, and pass on my experience to other athletes. Hopefully there'll be something for me to do. If not, I don't know. Perhaps I'll go and work in Asda, or something.

Q: Do you consider yourself a Yorkshirewoman, first and foremost?

A: Definitely. I love being from Doncaster and I'll never consider myself anything else. I love going out in Doncaster and seeing my friends and family.

Q: What do you like about Yorkshire?

A: That everyone is really down-to-earth. And I love the fact that Doncaster is getting bigger and better. There's a lot more to do in the town. A lot of the bars are really good and the town centre has been done up with brand new shops. There's a big college, too.

Q: What do you dislike about Yorkshire?

A: (Pause) Er... I don't know. (Another pause). Yes I do! The floods a couple of years ago. The water got very close to my house and to my mum and dad's house, which are in the same street. I live in Bentley, and Toll Bar, very nearby, was flooded.We had all the sandbags ready.We didn't need them, luckily.

Q: Do you have a favourite venue in Yorkshire?

A: I'm into R&B music, so I can recommend Tryst (the bar nightclub) in Doncaster for you.

Q: Do you have a favourite Yorkshire location?

A: The Dome in Doncaster is a great place to go. There's nowhere in the country that has anything like it, with ice-skating, swimming, exhibitions and a big main hall for events. That's my favourite location. When I started Taekwondo I trained there. It's been a big part of my life.

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