Olympics: Silver in Tokyo makes Doncaster’s Bradly Sinden hungry for gold in Paris
Bradly Sinden’s Olympic silver medal is currently being stored in a sock.
It is not some dismissive, petulant outburst by a beaten finalist, more an act of necessity to ensure it doesn’t get scratched.
But it does betray the mixed emotions the Doncaster taekwondo star still feels about the manner in which silver was earned.
Cast your mind back to the first Sunday of the Tokyo Olympics and Sinden was socking it to his opponents on the taekwondo mat as he blazed a trail towards the men’s 68kg gold medal bout.
The final with Uzbekistan fighter Ulugbek Rashitov was a nip-and-tuck affair that Sinden had the lead of with six seconds remaining, only for Rashitov to land a kick and grab the gold.
Sinden was devastated at the time. Silver felt like defeat.
Not enough water has gone under the bridge yet to get him to a stage where he can remove that silver from its sock and look at it with pride, but his perspective on his Olympic experience is mellowing.
“I was disappointed for me, for my family, for the team around me,” Sinden said.
“The taekwondo team is like a family and we strive for gold.
"That was the hard part of my own family not being there, because win or lose your family is proud of you no matter what and they make you realise that.
"So it was good to get back and see everyone and put things into perspective.
"I'll still be disappointed for a while,” he added. "I made a few mistakes and the one at the end cost me but overall I think I put in a very good performance.
“It's not the medal I wanted but I've gained some reward for all the hard work I've put in.
"The only disappointment my mum had was knowing that I was disappointed,” he added. “She wasn't disappointed with the result at all, she was disappointed because she knew I wanted more.
“But when you come home they treat you like champions. My family is great at doing that and the community has been great at doing that too.”
The reception he has received since returning to Doncaster has helped the healing process.
Sinden has returned to his home town a hero. A trip to the local fish and chip shop became an impromptu ‘show and tell’ to the owners and punters. A night on the town also elicited a similar response.
“I was around Doncaster town centre a couple of Saturdays ago and people were surprised to see me because the Olympics are still going on, but because of Covid we flew back early,” he says.
“I could hear someone going ‘I swear that’s him’, and the guy she was with was saying ‘nah, he’ll still be in Tokyo’.”
Last weekend his local community held a reception for him at the church hall in Stainforth.
“There’ll be a bouncy castle, a Q&A, a chance to come and meet me,” said Sinden last week, his voice cracking into a trace of pride.
“I’ll have to bring the medal out of the sock for that.”
So why the sock?
“So it doesn’t get scratched,” he says. “Team GB forgot to give us the boxes so the BOA are going to have to bring a few boxes for us.”
As positive as the reception, as proud as he will eventually feel, the silver leaves the 22-year-old reigning world champion with a sense of unfulfilment, and one that will inspire him to complete the job in Paris in 2024.
“For as long as I can remember my goal has been to win the world championships and win the Olympics. If you’d told me five years ago I’d have won worlds and have a chance to win gold at the Olympics, I would never have believed you. I just didn’t expect it to come so soon,” says Sinden, who won the world title in 2019.
“If I had have won Olympic gold I’d have probably had to re-evaluate what my next goal is but at the moment my goal hasn’t changed.
“What I have achieved is amazing, not just the silver, it’s coming from being an unknown with no ranking points to then come all the way up, win the world championships and silver in the Olympics, with medals at every major along the way.
“The next few years will be fun because for the last few years I was starting with nothing and had to grind my way to the top, whereas now I’m starting the road to Paris at the top.
“I’m coming out of Tokyo even more hungry because I know I should have won it. I made the mistake and the guy capitalised on it, I was the one who gave him that opportunity.
“That just adds fuel to the fire. I’m here until I win gold.”
That he is owes much to another Doncaster taekwondo player, Sarah Stevenson, whose bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 paved the way for others to follow.
“Sarah’s medal was a breakthrough for us,” says Sinden, who hopes he will inspire the next generation. “That and (performance director) Gary Hall for the programme he built from the ground up.
“Without those we wouldn’t have the funding we have now. Jade Jones wouldn’t have won gold, I might not have been here.
"I’ve had lots of messages about inspiring the next generation and that’s a brilliant feeling.
"I love the sport, I want the sport to improve and grow, and hopefully my medal will help with that and inspire a few more kids from Doncaster too.”
*To find your nearest taekwondo club visit britishtaekwondo.org.uk.