A TAEKWONDO Olympian and world champion who took the athletes’ oath at the London Olympics is coming to Grangemouth this Saturday (Feb 16) to hold a sold-out masterclass for over 200 Scottish players. And at a dinner afterwards, inspirational Sarah Stevenson MBE will tell of her emotional triumph over tragedy as she lost both parents to cancer…but still managed to win her current world title just weeks after.
The masterclass is the first-ever run in Scotland by a current world champion and is further recognition that Scotland is now a major player in the sport. Last year was the most successful in the history of Scottish taekwondo; more Scots than ever before are in the GB National Team while in 2012 Scottish players took most medals at major international events.
Sarah (29) from Doncaster, took up the sport when she was ten years old because she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her older brother. But while his interest waned, she was spotted as a star of the future. The actor and martial arts exponent Jackie Chan was so impressed by young Sarah’s ability that he donated £3000 towards her training. She has a burning passion for her chosen sport, describing herself as “an animal” and “a machine”.
Taekwondo Scotland has arranged her trip north of the border and its High Performance Coach Nikos Jakubiak said it was “a great honour for us to host Sarah’s first-ever visit to Scotland. Sarah is GB’s most decorated taekwondo athlete. She has won the senior world title twice – to put her achievements in context, no other British athlete has ever won the senior worlds once and she was also junior world champion in 1998.”
And he added: “As a result of consistent improvement recently at European, World and Olympic levels, UK Taekwondo has received increased funding amounting to some £8m to prepare for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, with a number of our excellent Scottish athletes competing to join the UK squad.”
Members of Falkirk’s Central Taekwondo Academy, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, will attend the seminar and dinner. Its founder Master David Bailey is a Seventh Dan and has been closely involved in the planning for Sarah’s visit.
“She is phenomenal,“ said David. “Taekwondo has appeared as a full medal sport at the last four Olympic Games and Sarah has been at all of them, winning Bronze in Beijing. She is by far the UK’s most successful Taekwondo athlete and one of the most famous players in the world. Our club members are really looking forward to training with a world champion.”
Like many top athletes, Sarah has suffered major setbacks in her career. In a terrible three-month period in 2011, both her parents died from cancer, with Stevenson saying after the death of her mother that it was “the saddest day of my life”. Shortly afterwards, and with limited training time, she left for the World Taekwondo Championships in South Korea…and dramatically won gold in the Welterweight class, beating the reigning Olympic champion on the way. The final concluded in an emotional scene with an ecstatic Stevenson collapsing to her knees.
Her achievements led to her becoming the Sunday Times Woman of the Year and receiving an MBE.
The dinner, at Polmont’s Inchyra Grange Hotel, is Taekwondo Scotland’s annual awards event which recognises and celebrates outstanding success amongst Scotland’s best players. As the keynote speaker, Sarah will take the audience through the highs and lows of her life and career, and the challenges of showing resilience as she pushed through physical and mental pain. She is clear that her life experiences have made her who she is today. And wishing to continue her inspirational work, she has set up her “Sarah Stevenson Inspires” programme which aims to educate and train young aspiring Taekwondo athletes.
Taekwondo is one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK with approximately 50,000 people of all ages participating across the country.