Doncaster Olympic medallist Sarah Stevenson today revealed the secret heartbreak that has cast a shadow over her London 2012 plans - both her parents are suffering life-threatening illnesses.
Her mother, Diana, began a second course of chemotherapy for cancer this week in hospital in Sheffield - and the three-time European taekwondo champion admits it has been a struggle to cope.
The 28-year-old missed competitions in Germany and America earlier this year following her mother’s diagnosis with terminal cancer in January - and last week her father, Roy, underwent brain surgery.
Sarah, who won Britain’s first and only Olympic taekwondo medal in Beijing in 2008, has been splitting her time between her parents’ home in Bentley and training in Manchester.
But she remains determined to put on a good show in the world championships in Gyeongju, South Korea, next month.
She said: “It’s been the worst time in my life but it’s taught me a number of valuable lessons and I still think I can go to the Worlds and be up there and I still feel I can get a medal.
“I’m good enough to win.
“I just hope on the day I can focus and go for it.
“I’ve got stronger than ever before over these last three or four months, it really does change you in a second.
“When it’s life or death it really puts things into perspective. I’m just going to go and do my best because there’s only one thing that’s important to me at the moment.”
She added: “It’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me.
“I keep telling everyone I’m going to sell my story to a magazine because it’s something that doesn’t happen to you, it happens to other people.
“Sometimes I do laugh about it because if I don’t laugh then I’d just be crying all the time.
“It helps me to talk about it because it kind of takes the pressure off the Worlds if people know this is what I’m dealing with.”
Sarah already has her sights set on a fourth Olympic appearance in London next year, and now has extra motivation driving her on.
“My mum and dad are absolutely my inspiration now, even more than they were before,” she said.
“I didn’t realise how much I was like my mum until she got ill. She’s so strong and fighting all the time, and that’s where I get it from.
“All they keep saying is they want me to go to London and the World Championships. It’s difficult because I want to go, but I also want to be there for them.
“I hope to God they can be there to watch me if I get to 2012 - that would mean more than anything.”