No let up for battling Brown

If Craig Brown should triumph on his Olympic debut here in Athens today it will be the fulfilment of a spiritual mission as much as the remarkable realisation of a sporting ambition.

If Craig Brown should triumph on his Olympic debut here in Athens today it will be the fulfilment of a spiritual mission as much as the remarkable realisation of a sporting ambition.

Having lost his father to cancer earlier this year and recovered from a broken shoulder to earn his place in the British taekwondo squad, Brown's ongoing Olympic odyssey is more than a battle against adversity.

On top of losing his late father Glenford, he was recovering from injuries sustained in a mountain bike crash at the time. And astonishingly, only two years ago a 19-year-old Brown could not even compete at the world championships in Turkey due to a lack of funding - even though he was the British No 1.

Brown, who has only been on the UK sport world class funding programme for six months, has made a massive impact on the sport in that time and is now a real contender for a medal in Athens.

"Craig's not only doing this for himself, he's doing this for his father," said Gary Hall, the British team's manager. "He is really driven at the moment. When his father died before the European Championship qualifiers Craig also had to attend to a broken shoulder and a broken wrist. He came back, won the European qualifiers on the back of that and has been in inspired form since. He's certainly on a mission."

Brown has been handed an extremely tough draw in the last 16 of the men's under 80kg class, facing the Australian Sydney silver medallist Daniel Trenton. It will not get any easier because next up is likely to be the gold medallist from four years ago, Angel Volodia Matos Fuentes, of Cuba.

Despite the formidable challenge that awaits Brown, Hall has confidence in the Briton's skills. "For me he is a true fighter and I have to say he's potentially one of the fastest in that weight division," Hall said.

"Craig's got the Sydney silver medallist first but he has made rapid progress in the six months he's been on the world class programme and if he gets his game plan right on the day he will do very well. If he gets past that guy he'll be up against the Olympic gold medallist so it's not been the easiest of draws for him.

"He is making rapid progress and if he's at that level or not we're not quite sure yet but this is the competition that will tell us where he is. But for Craig, coming from nowhere to making the last 16 in the Olympics, it shows you how far he has come so it's all possible."

Brown never dreamed he could take his place at an Olympics just two years ago. Back in 2002 he was a determined teenager training three times a week at the Buckmaster dojo in Peckham and was funding himself for one-off sessions at Loughborough University with the British squad.

Lottery funding, which has only been in taekwondo for two years, has helped Brown get to Athens.

"Four years ago I had stopped competing and was watching Sarah Stevenson competing in Sydney. If someone had said then that I would be on my way to Athens four years later I would have laughed at them. But I'm here and really optimistic," said Brown.

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