"I THOUGHT I HAD TO PAY TO GO TO THE OLYMPICS"
Sarah Stevenson admits to a pang of jealousy as her Great Britain Olympic team mates make final preparations for London 2012.
Bronze medallist in Beijing four years ago, Stevenson will be attending her fourth summer Games.
For Jade Jones, Lutalo Muhammad and Martin Stamper, this will be their first Olympic experience.
And Stevenson agrees preparations have changed beyond all recognition since she competed at Sydney 2000.
"For me, in those days, just to go to the Games and not pay was a massive deal," she revealed.
"That was the first time I had not paid to go to a major competition. I hadn't realised it was free.
"Before that my dad and I used to do car boot sales and other things to raise money so I could get to competitions."
Despite free travel Stevenson's first Olympic experience was so different to the 'luxuries' afforded to Jones, Muhammad and Stamper.
"In 2000," she recalled, "There was me, one other athlete-Colin Daley-my coach from Doncaster and a team manager.
"Nowadays, there are more staff than athletes. We didn't even have a physio, a doctor or any other support staff.
"Colin trained in London and I hardly saw him before the Olympics.
"If we needed a physio in Sydney we used one provided by the British Olympic Association. But even that was amazing because we hadn't had that option in the past.
"It's so different now but so much better."
Stevenson also competed in Athens and Beijing and is one of the most experienced Olympians among Team GB's 542 strong squad.
"Because it's in London, the build up is more exciting than it was before," she agreed.
"People who might not normally be into sport are getting involved and it's great to see.
"It's going to leave a massive legacy and hopefully the amount of money that's gone into bringing the Games won't be wasted.
"Hopefully, more kids will become involved in taekwondo.
"After every Olympics there is always a boost and I am sure it will even more so this time.
"For me each Games brings a different feeling but I do know what to expect.
"So, I am kind of jealous of the other guys that this is their first time. I can't really remember how it felt."
However, Stevenson has happily put her vast Games experience at the disposal of her team mates.
"We are all focused on what we are going to do individually.
"But if the rest of them want to ask any advice then I will help them in any way I can.
"It is not a problem to do that.
"However,it is their first time so they should experience everything for themselves.
"So, I won't talk about it too much. But I am there if they need anything."
Stevenson competes on August 10-the final day of taekwondo competition-and after 14 months of inactivity she's ready to unleash herself on an unsuspecting world.
"90 percent of the girls I will be up against I've probably never fought," she explained.
"I haven't had the opportunity. So, I don't have to worry about them because I don't know them.
"And they don't really know me because I have not fought for more than a year. So, I see it is a bonus.
"Physically and mentally, I feel strong and I can't wait to get started."