Sarah Stevenson, granted freedom of her home town
OLYMPIC taekwondo star Sarah Stevenson has been granted the freedom of her home town of Doncaster in recognition of her sporting achievements and work in the local community.
Stevenson, 30, will become the 12th Doncastrian to receive the accolade at an informal ceremony hosted by the Civic Mayor at the town’s Mansion House.
She said: “It is one of those achievements that is right up there with other achievements in my life and I am very proud.
“I am really honoured that I have been chosen to receive this as being born and raised in Doncaster has made me who I am. The coaching and experience I gained in the town and was instilled in me was instrumental to what I have gone on to do.”
Stevenson, who was born in Doncaster, became Junior World Champion in 1998 at the age of 13 and two years later became Senior World Champion, a feat she repeated in 2005 and 2011.
At the age of 17 she was the first female to represent the Great Britain taekwondo team at the Olympics in Sydney and went on to compete at Athens and Beijing, where she won a bronze medal.
Despite a debilitating knee injury and the loss of both parents to cancer in 2011, Stevenson led the GB taekwondo team at the London 2012 Olympics where she was given the honour of being chosen to recite the Athlete Oath at the Opening Ceremony.
Doncaster Civic Mayor Councillor Eddie Dobbs said: “Sarah is clearly a remarkable ambassador for Doncaster. Not only has she seen some tremendous achievement in taekwondo in terms of becoming world champion and competing in four Olympics, but she has continued with her tireless support of sport in schools and martial arts clubs across the borough.
“It is very rare that we honour people with the Freeman of the Borough, but in this case Sarah is a very worthy recipient – and we wish her good luck for the future.”
Stevenson is currently involved in the Battle for Brazil initiative, identifying talented young people to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games and is a member of the Olympic taekwondo coaching squad.
She also actively supports Grief Encounter, a charity dedicated to helping families address issues caused by bereavement; Balls to Cancer, a charity that is researching causes of male cancer; St John’s Hospice; and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.
Gary Sykes, who began coaching Stevenson at the Allstar Taekwondo Academy at Lakeside in Doncaster when she was six years old and took her to the Sydney Olympics, said: “Sarah was always a hard worker and very determined and what she has gone on to achieve is just fantastic.
“She has had to overcome lots of challenges throughout her career, including loss and injuries but despite this she has been to four Olympics. She has also given back tremendously with her work in the borough. What she has achieved for Doncaster is brilliant.”
Source: Yorkshire Post