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Lauren Williams’ incredible sacrifice has been highlighted by Great Britain’s first ever taekwondo medallist Sarah Stevenson, who said: “The determination in that girl is off the scale.”
Williams was seconds away from gold in the women’s -67kg category in Tokyo but lost out to Croatia’s Matea Jelic in Monday’s final.
The 22-year-old, from Blackwood in south Wales, switched to taekwondo from kickboxing, and lived in a caravan with her mum for 18 months in her early teens in order to be close to the GB team’s training camp in Manchester.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) July 26, 2021
Stevenson, who secured bronze in Beijing in 2008 to set off an incredible run of taekwondo medal glory for Great Britain, believes Williams’ silver medal is well deserved.
“Lauren is an absolute fighter, you can see it in her face that she just wants to hurt people and I think she’s amazing for that, I love that about her,” Stevenson told the PA news agency.
“There are not many girls that want to just go out there and tear someone up. She’s got such great aggression inside her. She has seen people like me and Jade (Jones) up there.
“Where she is right now is where she has always wanted to be since she was about 10 years old. She lived in a caravan with her mum, just to live in Manchester, just to make it and get to where she is now. The determination in that girl is off the scale, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Stevenson’s bronze medal in Beijing paved the way for others to follow, and she has been personally cited by 2020 silver medallist and fellow Doncaster native Bradly Sinden as an inspiration.
Sinden, who also took silver in the men’s -68kg category on Sunday, attended training camps run by Stevenson in his youth, although she admits his laid-back personality meant he did not immediately leap out as a future medal contender.
“He wasn’t one of those kids who would make you turn your head because he wasn’t the one that’s craving the attention or screaming the loudest,” Stevenson said.
“He was just there, digging in all the time. He hasn’t got that personality where he’s saying ‘look at me, look at me,’ all the time. He has always been more like ‘I’m doing my thing, just leave me alone’ really.
“He does slip under the radar because of that chilled personality. A lot of big names have got big personalities, he just cracks on and does his thing and works ridiculously hard to do it, but with a chilled-out vibe.”
Sinden was devastated to have lost out on gold to Uzbekistan’s Ulug Rashitov, but Stevenson believes time will allow him to reflect positively on his achievement.
She also believes he will be a perfect age to go for gold in Paris in three years’ time.
“When I got bronze it was hard, I knew I wasn’t given the best chance to get gold and I felt cheated out of it,” she recalled.
“With Bradly it was all in his own hands, as he said there were probably a couple of things he could have got better, he probably switched off a little bit.
“When the gold’s in your hands it’s hard to be proud of what you’ve got. But it takes time, it takes experience and it takes age. You need perspective on life and when you’re 22 you’ve just got that tunnel vision of an Olympic gold medal, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
“A lot can happen in four years, a lot less can happen in three, so I think he’s got a better chance for the fact that it’s only in three years.
“At the moment he’s world number two, I can see him getting to that world number one position and keeping that for the next three years.
“He’s in with an amazing chance and he’d certainly be one to keep your eyes on for that gold medal in Paris.”
Bianca Walkden has a chance to add to Team GB’s medal haul in the sport on Tuesday in the over 67kg category, while Mahama Cho is competing in the men’s over 80kg.