Sarah Stevenson yesterday became a world champion for the third time to install herself as favourite to take gold in next year's London Olympics. For a competitor who has frequently had to fight against the odds, this represented her greatest achievement.
The 28-year-old from Doncaster only made a belated decision to compete in South Korea as both her parents are seriously ill – her mother Diane has terminal cancer and her father, Roy, a brain tumour. Having beaten the home favourite and double Olympic champion Hwang Kyung-seon in the semi-finals, she was tied 3-3 with China's Guo Yunfei in the final after sudden death before the judges gave her the verdict.
"I cannot describe what it's going to mean to my mum and dad," said Stevenson. "I was so close to not coming because I didn't want to leave my parents alone. Hopefully, I have given them something to smile about. It's just an amazing feeling."
Stevenson, who is now the world and European champion in the under-67kg division, is set to compete in her fourth Olympics next summer with a good chance of winning Britain's first taekwondo gold. She won bronze in Beijing, the first British medal of any colour, but only after an extraordinary turn of events that saw her reinstated after a protest following a quarter-final defeat. But that left her only 10 minutes to prepare for her semi-final, which she lost after injuring herself.
Yesterday was a more personal drama and ended with her as a world champion again a decade after her first success at this level. "Sarah was in bits after the final," said Gary Hall, Britain's performance director.Reuse content