Sportsdesk COMMENT: If anyone deserves gold it’s our Sarah

Sarah Stevenson
Sarah Stevenson

THEY say it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts.

And for Bentley’s Sarah Stevenson that old adage would seem appropriate.

Well, fairly appropriate.

Doncaster’s best gold medal hope’s Olympic build-up has been blighted by personal tragedy and a career threatening injury.

Just to be competing at London 2012 represents something of a victory for Sarah.

But that does not mean she’s ready to settle for second best when tae kwon do takes the sporting spotlight.

Sarah’s toughest fight of her life - battling the heartache of losing both her parents last year - has completely overshadowed the moment that was meant to be the pinnacle of her magnificent sporting career.

A cruciate knee ligament injury has cast doubt on her hopes of glory.

But from pain and adversity, the story of London 2012 could emerge should Doncaster’s finest sporting ambassador realise her dream of winning Olympic gold. It was her parents’ dream too.

The importance of winning might have been placed firmly into context by the tragic events of 2011.

But victory at the ExCel would be the sweetest of moments since Stevenson took up tae kwon do at the age of seven - for all sorts of reasons.

It would also represent a sporting effort of Herculean proportions.

No victory in London would be more emotional or poignant; it would be a real-life fairy tale; there would not be a dry eye in the house.

When Sarah steps onto the mats tomorrow, it’s hard to imagine what exactly will be going through her mind.

Athletes talk about getting in the zone, blocking everything out, focussing on the task ahead.

And for Sarah, success might depend on detaching herself from the inevitable emotion that will be oozing from a vociferous home crowd.

It’s only natural that such a boisterous audience will remind Sarah of the two absent spectators closest to her heart.

In the back of her mind she’ll be protective of the knee she injured only last February.

She might think back to Beijing four years ago, still convinced she was robbed of the opportunity to better the bronze medal she won.

And she’ll also be mindful, at the age of 29, that London 2012 could well be her fourth and final chance to win Olympic gold.

It’s a good job then that Sarah is one of the most uncomplicated elite athletes you’re likely to encounter.

Positive mental attitude is why Stevenson is where she is today.

Positive mental attitude is what has got Stevenson through the last 18 months.

London 2012 could be a spectacular swansong for Sarah; an opportunity to pay tribute to her mother Diana and father Roy, who wanted nothing more than to see their daughter win Olympic gold.

Sadly that’s not possible - but the gold medal very much is.

And while sport doesn’t tend to do sentiment, no one deserves that gold medal more than our Sarah.

She’s a true winner, a true fighter, a true inspiration.

The town will be right behind her tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, Sarah Stevenson will always be Doncaster’s golden girl.