THERE would be few more popular British Olympic champions than Doncaster’s Sarah Stevenson, were she to strike gold in London.
The four-strong Great Britain team will not be named until later this month, but the 29 year-old is expected to be selected after winning a fitness battle.
Stevenson’s hopes of competing in her fourth successive Olympics appeared to be in doubt in February after she suffered a knee ligament injury in a training camp in Mexico. But, following surgery and weeks of intensive rehabilitation, Stevenson has been signed off by her specialist.
“He doesn’t need to see me again and there’s no reason why I can’t compete in the Olympics and the coaches are happy with me,” she said on a visit to her old school, Don Valley Academy and Performing Arts College. “I’m delighted but I never doubted I’d be ready.
“Treatment will continue but I’m pretty much back to full training now and as long as I look after the knee before and after every session, then I should be okay,” she said.
It is not the first time that Stevenson has suffered such an injury. She injured her left knee in the year leading up to the 2004 Olympics in Athens where she’d hoped to improve upon the fourth place she gained in Sydney as a 17 year-old.
“The injury affected my chances and I didn’t do as well as I had done in 2000,” she said.
Stevenson, aged 29, became the first British taekwondo player to medal at an Olympics in Beijing in 2008, winning the bronze.
She was originally ‘beaten’ in the quarter final only to make history by being put through to the semi-final after it was proved that a judge missed a scoring shot.
But all the drama, which turned her into a household name overnight, took its toll - as did a foot injury - and she lost to the eventful champion.
“That was the gold medal fight; whoever won it would be crowned champion,” she said.
Stevenson hit the national headlines again in 2011 winning the world title she had first won in 2000, for the third time, during a year when she lost both parents to cancer.
“They were both terminally ill at the time but they wanted me to go,” she said. “I didn’t know what shape I was in; I’d not competed in months.”