Unexpected success has caused taekwondo star Bradly Sinden to rip up his best-laid career plans and focus on getting the most out of his delayed Olympic debut.
The one-year delay in the Tokyo 2020 schedule is no big deal for the Doncaster 21-year-old, who was crowned Britain’s first men’s able-bodied world champion in the sport in Manchester last May.
After all, when Sinden first joined the national academy in 2016, linking up with the likes of Jade Jones who was on the cusp of successfully defending her first Olympic crown, the 2020 Games were scarcely on his horizon at all.
“Tokyo was a goal but coming into the seniors with zero ranking points, it was always going to be a stretch to be up there and challenging, and 2024 seemed more realistic,” Sinden told the PA news agency.
“When I won my first world medal in 2017 I realised I had a chance. I went into the 2019 worlds in really good form, beat one of the best fighters in the world, and everything just panned out the way I wanted.”
Sudden success still took some adjusting for Sinden, whose come-from-behind victory over Javier Polo Perez of Spain made him one of three British gold medallists, alongside his more established team-mates Jones and Bianca Walkden.
“For as long as I remembered I had two major goals – I wanted to be a taekwondo athlete, and I wanted to win the worlds and the Olympics,” said Sinden, which is hardly surprising given his home-town links with Britain’s first Olympic taekwondo medallist and former double world champion, Sarah Stevenson.
“I didn’t expect to tick one of them off so soon, and it felt a bit surreal. I woke up the next morning and didn’t feel any different, and it took a few days to realise the extent of what I’d actually done.
“Straight after that, it was back into training because the next goal is the Olympics. After that, it’s a case of setting your goal for what you want to do next.”
Sinden is in a fortunate position during the current lockdown as he shares a house with fellow GB squad member Mason Yarrow, through whom the pair have access to a private gym.
Given the nature of his career trajectory, Sinden is not too concerned about waiting for an additional 12 months for what he hopes will be the first in a series of Olympic appearances.
“You’ve got to recognise what the goal is. It’s still in the end the Olympic Games and least now we know when it’s going to be, and we’re not in the position of ‘is it going to happen?’”, added Sinden.
“I’ve got to take the positives out of it. Since I became a full-time athlete I’ve improved tenfold year on year, so following that trend I can be so much better with another year of practice.
“I’ve always said I want to do a minimum of two Olympics, and stay in the sport until my body says it’s time to stop.
“If I win Olympic gold next year I’ll figure out what my goal is – I might want to prove I can do it all again.”