Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Britain’s Olympic taekwondo trio in with a fighting chance

Posted by Kimberly on August 1, 2008

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
August 1, 2008 (667 words)

None of Britain’s three taekwondo Olympic athletes have ever been knocked out in a tournament, with 25-year-old Sarah Stevenson stating, “that’s why we’re good!”
So good in fact, that Stevenson currently has a tattoo on her left foot to represent each of her two wins as European and world champion.
But that doesn’t mean any of them expect that to remain the case, especially when facing the likes of the United States’ Steven Lopez, two-time Olympic champion.
Stevenson’s quick to add, “anyone can get knocked out. You can make a mistake or they could do something good. I wouldn’t say anything bad about anyone who’d been knocked out,” she admits.
Speaking with the media yesterday at the Westin Resort, Macau, the taekwondo team were joined by their Cuban coach, Nelson Miller and Performance Director Gary Hall, who was quick to applaud the local facilities as being first class.
“We’ve come a long way in terms of preparation,” says Hall, adding that the team’s realistic Olympic expectation was obtaining a medal.
“We’ve got three players that are going to perform really well,” he adds.
With the Beijing Olympics being Stevenson’s third, she admits that this one feels different to the others.
“It’s the best preparation I’ve ever had and the best team, and I’m more experienced,” she says.
Considering her first Olympics was at the age of 17, she adds that it feels like it was yesterday.
Stevenson is joined by 17-year-old Aaron Cook and 18-year-old Michael Harvey, the former of whom has been participating in the sport since the age of five, after seeing the Power Rangers on television.
Cook has already competed at international senior level, having won gold and was at the top at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival last year.
As far as their coach is concerned, Miller believes that what is needed is a fighting spirit, particularly as he compares the advantages afforded Britains’ athletes to his native Cuba and admits they”re huge.
And his methods work, with Cook adding that “he pushes us to our limits but I wouldn’t say he’s hard on us.”
The team are currently training for about four hours a day, in two equal sessions, five times a week.
As for their opponents once the Games begin, Hall explains that “it’s a non-seeded draw [on August 19] and you don’t know who you’re going to get in the first round.”
Asked about their Chinese counterparts, Hall admits that the Chinese females “are strong, but the males don’t seem to be able to bridge the gap..but this sport is one of their big ones.
He adds that their “methodology or coach level expertise isn’t as strong as ours. They’re at the end of their career and we’re at the beginning of ours,”
Stevenson, in particular, is facing China’s Chen Zhong in her -67kg class, with Chen aiming to add to her two successive Olympic gold medals.
Not that the Brit is particularly concerned, having beaten the Chinese champion seven years ago.
“I didn’t know she was an Olympic champion until after I’d defeated her,” said Stevenson, adding that Chen had been in a different weighing group at the Sydney Olympics.
Meanwhile, Cook’s plan is simply to “go there [to Beijing] and and do my best. Anything can happen,” he says, but quickly adds, “obviously I would like gold but that’s not realistic.”
The World Junior champion will be competing in the -80kg class and admits that, having “already beaten the world bronze medallist, it’s not going to be a shock going to the Games.
“I’ve always been dreaming of going to the Olympics. I thought I could achieve it and here I am,” he adds.
The trio will be competing at the University of Science and Technology, Beijing (USTB), with Hall admitting that “it’s going to be a tough fight no matter who they get!”
No matter what happens, Stevenson at least, no doubt already has a tattoo in mind to commemorate her next win.

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