Lauren Burns

“At the Games I did not focus on the Gold Medal. I was disciplined to remain focussed and I concentrated on winning the next fight in front of me, on being ‘in the moment’ when I walked out on the mat. I did a lot of thinking and strategic analysis of my opponents prior to the Games but when I stepped out into the ring my focus was not to think and just to react.

As soon as you focus on the end result you take the power away from the present moment. I knew that if I scored points, controlled the game and won each fight that the gold medal would be there at the end.

I apply this way of thinking to many other aspects of my life. If we are going to make the world a better place for ourselves, the people and animals we love, then we must be prepared to Be Present. Not living for tomorrow because it never comes, or yesterday because it doesn’t exist anymore.

All I could think was: I hope I’m facing in the right direction for the flags and I hope I don’t do something silly like trip over or fall off the stage! In some ways it was such an incredible experience but I also felt that I’m still just me doing what I’ve done for many years. So often, at the Olympics in particular, people place a lot of pressure on themselves and don’t end up doing what they trained to do.

In essence, competitors can either choke or shine – the Olympics brings out the best in people. That is what happened with me. Even though I was a medal chance I was a complete outsider for the Gold.”

I’ve been vegetarian since I was 3 years old. My parents decided to become vegetarians when I was little but they didn’t force their belief onto me. It was my own decision. When I turned 3 yrs old I said to Ronnie and Maggie: ‘I don’t want to eat my friends anymore’ and that was all it took – a simple choice. I am very passionate about food and I love cooking, especially tofu, tempeh, legumes, grains and lots of steamed organic veggies.

Many people are surprised that an athlete can be a fully-fledged vegetarian. However, it is a changing perception and I’m pleased to be part of that.

“Stop animal testing! It is really important to know that, as consumers, we can do a lot to halt the continuing cruelty to animals. They remain the silent victims of abuse only if we deny them their right for a compassionate life. To create change, first we must change, and in doing so, make choices and distinctions regarding the wellbeing of all animals.”

“I’d like to the kick the arse out of the laboratories and the people who so callously profit from them!”