After waiting more than a decade to compete at the Paralympics, putting everything on hold for another year was never going to faze para-taekwondo star Amy Truesdale, writes Adam Le Roux.
After taking to the sport as an eight-year-old as a means of self-defence, the Manchester-based athlete has been a shining light in the sport since first taking to the mat.
From a World Championship win on home soil in 2017 to her current world number one ranking, Truesdale has been a trailblazer in the sport that is set to make its Paralympic debut this summer, with qualification for the showpiece event in Tokyo already sealed.
“It’s absolutely amazing because Taekwondo has been an Olympic sport for 20 years, now in the Paralympics we’re actually going to be there. I just feel it’s extra special that I’m the first female to qualify for the Games,” said Truesdale who, in Tokyo, will look to add to the 864 inspirational Olympic and Paralympic medals won since National Lottery funding began in 1997.
“I was obviously disheartened, but I’d already accepted it was going to be postponed because it was common sense that it would be.
"I’d waited this long to go to the Games that surely another year isn’t going to be that bad because I’d waited so long anyway.
“If anything I took the positives out of it, because that year gave me another opportunity to develop areas that I was working on anyway.”
Like lots of athletes hoping to impress on the global stage this summer, things have been anything but straightforward in the last year for Truesdale, with access to sports facilities become more restricted.
But the mind of a champion often creates opportunity out of setbacks, stopping at nothing to achieve their goal.
From bursting balloons on walls to making mincemeat of mannequins, a quick scan of her Instagram page shows that nothing is safe when Truesdale gets practicing.
“Because it is now a Paralympic sport it’s gained a lot more interest, and I’ve been there from the beginning and seen how many more athletes are now involved in it, so it’s been great from a development point of view to see that first hand,” she said.
“It’s going to be a surreal experience, I’ve watched the Olympics and Paralympics for as long as I can remember but I think until you’re in that situation it’s going to be hard to imagine what that’s going to be like.
"It’s going to be pure excitement, pure nerves, and a bit of relief as well, as all those years of hard work are going to be materialised on the day.
“You still get nervous, if anyone they says they don’t they’re lying, because you’re going into somewhere where someone wants to kick you so obviously you’re going to get nervous.
“I don’t really think I’m an inspiration but then when I do take a step back and look at the messages that I receive from people about how they’ve got into the sport or how their child has overcome something.
“That’s amazing because it makes me feel like I’ve really helped someone and that’s my aim going into the Games, if I can perform well and someone’s at home watching on the television thinking their child can do the same, that would be amazing.”
From working in a shoe shop in Hoole, to teaching taekwondo and showcasing her abilities to children in assemblies, to living the Paralympic dream, it is safe to say life has changed somewhat for Amy Truesdale in the last decade.
And none of that would have been possible without the funding of The National Lottery, which allowed her to go full-time as an athlete and pursue her gold medal ambitions after her World Championship win in 2017.
The weeks used to consist of a commute to Manchester to train after work three times a week, but these days her time on the mat is what pays the bills, and Truesdale is reaping the rewards as a result.
“Without The National Lottery I wouldn’t be in this position, because prior to this it was so hard trying to fund yourself while you’re trying to work and trying to train,” she said.
“So the fact that The National Lottery is supporting so many other athletes like myself - helping us with funding and making sure we have the adequate equipment and medical supplies that we need - is absolutely amazing.
“It’s something that’s been a hobby for over 24 years of my life and something I loved as a child and now it’s my job - it’s like my dream has become a reality and that’s due to The National Lottery funding and that support has got me into that position.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo