Voices inspire British fighter to strike for karate gold
Motivational speeches and year 11 prom photos have driven teen to brink of glory as karate makes its Olympic debut.
Whenever Briton Lauren Salisbury steps on to the karate mat she listens closely to the voices in her head - a powerful set of words in a six-minute motivational speech stored in her phone. The sentences warn her: “If you don’t do what you want to do, somebody else is going to be there to live the dream for you.” And, “Focus on what you want and not what everybody is telling you to do.”
Without those mental triggers, her game can sometimes go a little awry. “I don’t know who did the speech,” said the 17-year-old from Romford, Essex, who will be competing in the kumite +59kg category at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. “I listened to it a couple of years ago and it stuck. “When I went to Croatia (for the YOG qualifying event) it deleted itself and I messed up the first day. The next day, I had it back in my routine and listened to it. I qualified.”
Salisbury will require all her concentration if she is to stand any chance of winning a medal in Buenos Aires. Split into six weight categories - the men’s -61kg, -68kg and +68kg events, and women’s -53kg, -59kg and +59kg - karate’s introduction to the Youth Olympic Games has been dominated by Japan, who qualified for all six brackets, with Iran appearing in five.
Karate is making its debut on an Olympic stage at Buenos Aires 2018 (Getty Images)
During a bout, fighters can score with straight strikes or punches delivered to the body or face (one point), middle kicks to the body (two points), and punches to the head when an opponent has been sent to the ground with a sweep or ‘takedown’ (three points). High kicks to the head can also score three points.
The teenager took up the sport at the age of five and says she chose to devote ever more time to it as her peers seemed to aimlessly waste theirs. “I got into karate because I saw people who were constantly out (on the streets) and that wasn’t something I wanted to do,” Salisbury said. “It kept me grounded. But it’s been (a blow) to my social life. I missed my year 11 prom because I was in Croatia competing. I didn’t go on my phone for two days (because I was) seeing people’s photos, getting ready to go. I stayed off social media, but I took plenty of pictures when we came out here.”