Team GB taekwondo athlete Sarah Stevenson is aiming to make it third time lucky in Beijing.
Stevenson is the oldest member of the three-strong Team GB taekwondo team for Beijing, competing at her third Olympic Games aged just 25.
She came close to a medal aged 17 in Sydney, finishing fourth. After missing out in Athens, she said she is better prepared than ever as she returns to Olympic action in Beijing.
“I think I’m more excited this time than I was for the other two Games,” she said. “I’ve come here to enjoy it, take each match as it comes and do my best.
“I know I can do well, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’m definitely the best prepared I’ve been mentally and physically,” she added. “But you have to focus on what you’re good at. Someone can kick you in the head and it can all be over.”
Stevenson’s over-67kg class also features China’s Chen Zhong, who is aiming to complete a hat-trick of successive Olympic gold medals at the weight.
Stevenson is joined in the Team GB taekwondo team for Beijing by 17-year-old Aaron Cook and 18-year-old Michael Harvey – two athletes who have benefited from the improved training environment the sport has enjoyed in recent years through Lottery funding.
“They’re both really young, they train hard and they’re focussed,” said Stevenson. “They know 100 times more than I did in Sydney. They will be a lot better than me.”
Gary Hall, Team GB’s taekwondo Team Leader, said Stevenson’s success has played a major role in the development of the sport in Great Britain.
“Sarah was a catalyst for change. She was an elite athlete who did exceptional things without a lot of support. These guys are benefiting as a result of that. We’ve now got a full-time training environment. They live, sleep, eat and breathe taekwondo.
“They have done an exceptional job up to this point and I don’t see why that should change,” he added.
Aaron Cook (-80kg class) makes his Olympic Games in Beijing in a year that has already seen him become the first British male to win the World Junior Championships.
Cook, who took up the sport aged five because he liked the Power Rangers, said: “It’s an amazing experience. I went to the Youth Olympics last year ,but this is a massive step up. I’ve wanted to go to the Olympic Games since I was a boy.
“To be part of the biggest tournament in the whole world is a great achievement and I’m honoured to be a member of Team GB.
“I’ve already beaten some of the other people who are going to be in the tournament. If I get a good draw, anything could happen,” he added. “Obviously I want the gold, but I’m just going to go out there and do my best.”
And Cook hopes to meet one of the stars of the sport – Steven Lopez – in the Beijing 2008 final.
Cook has never fought the USA star – winner of Olympic golds at -68kg at Sydney 2000 and at -80kg in Athens four years ago.
“I’ve always wanted to beat him,” said Cook. “Now he’s coming to the end of his career I won’t get many chances to fight him.
“I’ve always dreamt about an Olympic final against him. I’ll do my best, and if he’s there with me, God help him!” joked Cook. “In the dream I knock him out.”
Fellow teenager Michael Harvey also makes his Olympic debut in Beijing, competing in the -58kg division.
“It’s like a dream come true to be going to the Olympic Games,” he said today at the Team GB Preparation Camp in Macau.
“I’m injury free, I’m feeling good and I know what to expect.”
All three Brits have one thing in common – none of them has ever been knocked out. “That’s why we’re all here!” remarked Stevenson.
For further information
Graham Newsom, Chief Press Officer at the Team GB Preparation Camp in Macau on +853 664 777 60
Katriona Bush, Press Officer, on +853 626 414 75