When Lauren Burns won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she became Australia’s first champion in the kicking, punching sport of taekwondo - which had its roots in ancient Korean martial arts. The daughter of showbiz parents, 1960s rock star Ronnie Burns and dancer Maggie Stewart, she played little sport as a child, and had little urge or encouragement to do so. Hers was an alternative childhood. At the age of 14, she tagged along with her brother Michael to a taekwondo class, was not overly impressed, but returned the next week, and the next … much to the surprise of her family. “We expected her to get hit in the face and come home crying,” Ronnie Burns explained after his daughter’s win in the under-49 kilogram class. Lauren Burns attributed her win to “determination, inner resolve, never natural talent.”
She elected to train in the sport’s home country of Korea under the leading coach Jin Jae Jeong. Burns, a student of natural medicine, deferred her studies for a year to concentrate on preparation for the Olympic introduction of the ancient discipline at the Sydney Games. Along the way she acquired an inner strength and confidence. Her mantra, even against intimidating opponents, became: “We both have two arms and legs … the only difference is in the head. I can beat you there.” At the Olympics, after shedding six kilograms to make the weight, she defeated opponents from Chinese Taipei and Denmark to reach the final against Cuba’s Urbia Melendez Rodriguez - which she won 4-2.
Harry Gordon, AOC Historian