Inside Lines: Brave battle of GB Olympic star Sarah who lives for kicks
Sunday 17 April 2011
Sarah Stevenson, who won Britain's first Olympic taekwondo medal in Beijing, is facing an emotional personal battle as she prepares for next month's World Championships in Beijing, one she says has changed her outlook on life.
In January, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, then her father suddenly fell ill, and underwent a brain operation last week. Consequently, she has had to miss a number of major competitions, while travelling between her Manchester base and the family home in Doncaster has severely affected her training.
"I've had to put my family first in what has been the worst time of my life," she tells me.
"It has been really tough but it has taught me valuable lessons. Everything else is meaningless when you are faced with life and death."
Bronze medallist Stevenson, 28, a three-time Olympian, was involved in one of Beijing's great dramas when her controversial quarter-final defeat against the Chinese Olympic champion was overturned, and she faced a hostile reception in a semi-final fought with a damaged ankle. "But all that stuff is nothing to what I am going through now. Fortunately mum is making some progress after intensive chemo and we are awaiting the results of dad's operation."
Last November, Stevenson married GB coach Steve Jennings in Mexico. "Both mum and dad were there and were happy and healthy. This is the sort of thing you believe would never happen to you, but they are both my inspiration, now more than ever. They have urged me to go to the worlds and then to 2012. I still feel I am good enough to win in London. I hope to God they can be there to watch. That would mean more than even a gold medal."
Coe on his honour
Dave Bedford, who has organised the London Marathon brilliantly for more than 20 years, steps down after today's event.
Bedford, interviwed by The Independent on Sunday today, has never been given a gong. Ironically, if that odd omission is to be rectified, it will be up to someone with whom he recently fell out. The new chairman of the Sports Honours Committee is the 2012 supremo Sebastian Coe, who succeeds ex-England and Wales Cricket Board chief Lord MacLaurin.
Bedford wasn't exactly complimentary about Coe's alleged lack of support when quitting his role with next year's Olympic marathon, though I hear the good lord, not one to bear grudges, hasn't taken offence.
Perhaps it will be Bootsie MBE in the Birthday Honours.
Cheeky move by Jowell
The recent spat between the warring lords of the Olympic rings, Coe and Moynihan, may not be the only schism on the 2012 board.
The cross-party alliance is about to be tested as Labour's shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell and Boris Johnson will be squaring up on the hustings; she is running the campaign for Ken Livingstone when he attempts to regain the mayoral seat next May, a couple of months before the Games.
"I hope there'll be no hard feelings," she says. "But this is politics." Isn't it always?
Abberley takes aim
Taking on the wily Dr C K Wu, president of international governing body AIBA, is the tricky task facing Mark Abberley, freshly appointed chief executive of the English ABA, following the vindictive ban on GB Olympic coach Rob McCracken because he also trains pros.
While Abberley has no experience of boxing's political in-fighting, at least his background as chairman of the Archery GB Performance Group should prepare him for the slings and arrows of the sport's outrageous fortune.
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