“It is tough leaving the family at 5:30pm when they’re about to eat and they have homework. I say to myself ‘I should be with them, helping them’ but there are so many choices. When I take the choice of taekwondo I have to deliver in the end."
Lisa Gjessing’s gold medal at the London 2017 World Para Taekwondo Championships had a special flavour because although it was her fourth world title, it was the first with her two daughters watching on from the Copper Box Arena stands.
“It’s so amazing [to win in front of my daughters]. It is the best the feeling ever,” said Gjessing.
“I saw them in the stand during my first match and I started crying but thought ‘no, you can’t cry now!’ When I went to the mat in the final I also felt like crying but told myself ‘you can’t be emotional now.’ So, I went from emotional to kicking-ass!”
At 39 years old, Gjessing remains top of the sport thanks to making big sacrifices. Her years of success stem from “lots of hard work, lots of planning and lots of mental training.”
The Dane trains nearly every day of the week and consequently misses out on time spent with the family. Hence, she is extremely committed to performing at her best to bring the gold home for those who she holds closest.
“Since spring we had started training for London 2017. Then, since the summer we have had six training sessions a week - three or four taekwondo and three running or weight training. With a full-time job and kids it has been really hard work,” she explained.
“When I’m competing, I am taking time away from the family, taking time away from cleaning the house and making food. I have to be totally dedicated and perform well. I feel that I have to go for the gold when I do take the time off away from the family.
“It is tough leaving the family at 5:30pm when they’re about to eat and they have homework. I say to myself ‘I should be with them, helping them’ but there are so many choices. When I take the choice of taekwondo I have to deliver in the end. So I put pressure on myself for that and I have to compete at 100 per cent every time.”
Despite her many victories, Gjessing understands there is still work for her to do if she is to become successful once again at Tokyo 2020.
“Taekwondo being included in the Paralympics, oh wow, it means so much!
“The sport’s setup is getting more professional and I’m so amazed of World Taekwondo in how they’ve set it up. They are doing such a great job.
“The sport is more than just giving us a competition, it is giving us a new goal in life, which means an awful lot.”