THAT moment when Lauren Burns won Olympic gold in taekwondo was epic. The unexpected medal remains an iconic piece of Australian sporting history, made on home turf as one of three women to win an individual medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
So much of what went into Burns' fight to the top is incredibly relevant to our emerging athletes in today's sporting landscape, almost two decades on.
The 30 or so Ballarat Sports Foundation scholarship holders listening to Burns' address this week were in a similar place to where Burns found herself well before the gold medal: juggling work or school and trying to take their game to the next level in sports lacking a high profile.
Burns told Press Box such events and community support were so important as an athlete to feel you were not so alone or misunderstood.
Burns' gold was huge for women's sport, inspiring young women across the nation with her tenacity and fight - and surprising whole bands of men.
But for Burns, gender was not much an issue within taekwondo ranks. Burns says Australian women have long out-performed male compatriots in her sport - Australia's sole world champion is three-time Olympian Carmen Marton.
Burns' identity battle was as a vegetarian and international competitor. Dietitians said she could not be both. So Burns studied nutrition and naturopathy.
"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."
Burns urged young athletes to be proactive, ask lots of questions and seek advice. Athletes are selfish like that, Burns said, and need to be to ensure no stone was left unturned. This meant finding who was the best to help for nutrition and training.
Olympic hurdles champion Sally Pearson posted on social media this week how she had to "blaze" her own trail to become a multiple world champion. Pearson wrote she had no-one to tell her how to train or what she could be doing better - she instead spent hours with her mum figuring it out.
Crucial to Burns' success was seeking out a strong team for support, knowing who to trust, then turning to them in helping to stay true to yourself on your sporting journey.
Women's tennis world number one Ash Barty makes this clear in attributing individual achievements as her team's success. This week Barty became the first player to win the WTA Finals as world number one when she captured the prestigious tournament title in Shenzhen.
Strong interpersonal relationships is emerging as a key trend among top performers at mastery level in Burns' research. She is delving into the lifestyle practices of top athletes for her PhD.
Even within team sports, Burns said having one or two go-to people can have a powerful impact on negating the stress response.
Ballarat's sporting prowess, Burns believes, stems largely from a vibrant grassroots focus and support for our athletes - just like Ballarat Sports Foundation's work.
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