OLYMPIC taekwondo gold medallist Lauren Burns said the key to success was finding a good person to talk with.
Ms Burns is unearthing the evidence in her PhD study to show strong interpersonal relationships is a major lifestyle feature in elite athletes. But Ms Burns said the theme could translate into office and home life - in looking at athlete stress responses and physical biomarkers, having support was powerful.
Ms Burns said vibrant communities, like Ballarat, had great support structures in place. She will speak in a Ballarat Sports Foundation function on Thursday night, hoping to inspire the city's emerging athletes in ways to take their games to the next level.
Go out and be proactive and you find more ownership in your sport.Lauren Burns, Olympic taekwondo gold medallist
"Quality relationships are not always something we look at in training programs and pathways...Even in team sports it helps to have one teammate you can always go to, or talking to the team masseuse," Ms Burns said.
"One thing, and we're seeing it in the research, is top performers at a mastery level are athletes who leave no stone unturned - they're always seeking out who can help the best with training or nutrition. Athletes are very selfish like that, always asking 'who can help me'."
Taekwondo was an emerging sport when Ms Burns won one of three individual gold medals by an Australian woman in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Victorian Institute of Sport resources proved pivotal on her pathway.
Ms Burns said her best advice for anyone is that it was always worth asking questions, seeking advice, because even if you do not take it, there might be one gem in what they say.
"Especially if you're a young athlete - go out and be proactive and you find more ownership in your sport," Ms Burns said. "Set yourself up with others for support."
Ms Burns had to forge her own path as a vegetarian athlete in an era before superfoods and knowledge in alternative sources for vitamins and minerals needed for the power, speed, concentration and recovery to compete in an elite arena.
Even after winning Olympic gold, dietitians told Ms Burns she could not maintain being both a vegetarian and athlete on the world stage. Ms Burns studied naturopathy and nutrition while training to prove what was possible.
"I had to be diligent. I did not want to rely on usual methods to drop weight...I found going for a run and sauna affected my decision making. If you run on the day before competition, you're not going to perform as well anyway," Ms Burns said.
"I fought under 49 kilos at one stage and needed the power and speed to make it in that division. It was all about nutrition."
Ms Burns has long loved food and cooking, an interest she blogs about as a way to share recipes with others and in a bid to help empower others in preparing their own nutritious foods.
Sharing her journey with Ballarat Sports Foundation scholarship recipients is important to Ms Burns.
In her time as an emerging athlete, Ms Burns said such a chance to meet other athletes was important because it was too easy to get stuck in the "silo" of your own sport, thinking your sport was generally misunderstood - until you realised there are lots of other athletes, across a range of sports, who were doing the best they could with the resources they had, too.
Ballarat Sports Foundation will give scholarships to about 30 grassroots athletes on Thursday evening in a bid to help them achieve the next level in their chosen sport.
The Foundation also aims to foster the spirit of community pride and success.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.