Mersey Olympian Martin Stamper has experienced a life changing Korea switch – at the age of 26.
After practising taekwondo since the tender age of six, the heartache of missing out on an Olympic medal by a solitary point left the Dovecot athlete considering calling it a day.
It was a short-lived dilemma, but for a fighter who will be going for World title gold in Mexico next week (July 15-21) it was a very real one.
“I was absolutely gutted after the Olympics,” explained Martin. “I went back home and went on holiday with my family, which was nice, but I don’t think I took enough time off.
“My weight division is so competitive and when I came back I wasn’t enjoying taekwondo.
“I was in two minds about whether to aim for Rio 2016 or retire.”
The turning point for Martin – and Team GB – came at a training camp in Korea earlier this year.
“We had pretty much ten days of intense sparring with some of the best universities in Korea and I started to feel back to myself,” added Martin. “I started enjoying training again and since then I’ve come on in leaps and bounds, winning two Opens.
“I should have taken more time out after London, which was so tough to take.
“I was seeing other people enjoying success – Jade (Jones, a gold medallist) and Lutalo (Muhammad, who won bronze) reaping the rewards of their hard work – and it definitely affected me.
“I’d been competing in front of 6,000 people in one ring on one night – and the atmosphere was amazing – then I was competing at the French Open where there were 10 rings with 2,000 people watching.”
But with his appetite for taekwondo reinvigorated Martin will be looking to build on the bronze medal he brought home from the last World Championships in 2011 – coincidentally in South Korea.
This time the Championships are staged in Puebla, Mexico – which at more than 2,000m above sea level will pose its own particular problems.
But Martin – and Team GB – are supremely prepared.
Every British athlete heading across the Atlantic has been spending time in oxygen tents in order to combat the exhausting affects of fighting at altitude.
And for dad Martin that has meant sleeping alone at nights.
“We’ve been sleeping in a tent for the last month or so,” he explained “but we’ve kept quiet about it until now.
“We didn’t want other teams to get onto what we’re doing and copy us.
“I’ve been using the spare room to sleep in while my girlfriend stays in our bed!
“It needs a big generator and it makes a lot of noise. We only have thin walls, too, but the neighbours are understanding!
“The pipes go up the stairs and lead into the tent which goes over my head – which I then try and sleep in.
“The first night was a bit weird but it’s one of those things you have to do.
“It’s been hard to get used to but it’s one of those sacrifices that need to be made. We’ll be 2,400m above sea level in Mexico and it will be tough.”
Just how tough was revealed to Martin last year when Team GB traveled to Mexico City for a competition.
“It was 100 degrees while we were there and we were wearing shorts and T-shirts, but the Mexicans were all either in suits or track suits.
“They were used to it and that’s the level we need to be at.
“Puebla is much further up in the mountains than Mexico City, too, so it will be tough.
“Obviously the altitude could be a leveler. But our performance director says that no other country will have researched or prepared as much as we have.
“Some countries will struggle and obviously the home fighters will have an advantage. We’ll certainly want to steer clear of Mexicans in the draw. But we’re hopeful.”
Martin has already come through his own personal struggles, though, and can’t wait for competition to start.