ALL Sarah Burdock had ever wanted to be was a champion gymnast.

She had taken up the sport at the age of seven, training for up to 15 hours a week, competed at national and international competitions and, at last, her dream of competing at the World Championships was within touching distance.

Sarah had placed second in trials for the competition, achieving her best score ever.

But one week later, she landed badly from a basic jump and not only were her plans to take part in the World Championships dashed but her whole gymnastic career was also over.

"It was in May 2016, when I was 17," says Sarah, now, 20, who lives in Southampton city centre.

"It was a really basic jump and I knew at once that I'd hurt my knee because I collapsed in agony."

An MRI scan revealed that Sarah had torn her anterior cruciate ligament, in her knee.

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She spent a year rehabilitating and tried to return to gymnastics, but her movement and pain levels were too badly affected for her to continue.

"It was horrible having to give up gymnastics," she says.

"It was a very low time for me for a year and a half. I'd devoted my whole life to gymnastics. I spent 12 to 15 hours a week in training and it was at the centre of my plans for the future. I wanted to carry on competing and also go on to be a coach.

"When I stopped I had all this free time and I didn't know what to do with it. It took a long time to get myself back into a better place."

As it became increasingly apparent that Sarah wasn't going to be able to return to gymnastics, friends and family began to suggest alternative sports for her to take up, but none caught her interest, until someone suggested bodybuilding.

Almost immediately, she was hooked.

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"I was going to the gym anyway, and I thought I might as well give it a go," she says.

She began training with a coach in August 2018, and entered her first competition a couple of months later.

Incredibly, despite being a newcomer, she placed first, earning herself a spot in the Arnold Classic, being held in South Africa in May.

Her next competition is at the end of this month, so she is currently in training mode.

Sarah is a student at Solent University but, she says, her lifestyle is far from that of many of her fellow students.

She cannot drink alcohol while preparing for a competition, and limits her drinking the rest of the time.

"Most students seem to be out all the time but I don't get it," she says.

"Drinking doesn't make me feel good. Going to the gym does."

It's a good job Sarah likes going to the gym as she's there a lot; she goes six days a week and for two of them, she goes twice a day, in the morning for a 'fasted cardio' session, exercising before eating, and in the afternoon to lift weights.

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A big difference between training as a gymnast and as a bodybuilder, is that she's no longer part of a team, and has to rely on herself for motivation, rather than being encouraged by others.

But she says that taking to the stage in her first competition gave her the same sort of buzz that she got from competing as a gymnast.

"I do occasionally wonder what I'd be doing now if I hadn't got injured but I'm over what happened. I focus on what I'm doing and the potential future for me in bodybuilding."

Sarah's main focus for now is the Arnold Classic in South Africa. Competing comes with a heavy price tag: the entry fee alone is £200, before she has paid for flights and accommodation, and she has turned to crowdfunding to help pay for her trip.

Several people who know her as a gymnast have pledged to help her and she's sponsored by Bailey's Gym in Basingstoke, where she used to train.

She hopes to place in the top five but says it's hard to know how she will do.

"I just love bodybuilding," she says.

"I fell in love with it really quickly. I love the dedication that you need and the sense of achievement, and competing gave me back a feeling I'd missed since leaving gymnastics."

Sarah adds that she thinks body building has helped her in other ways too.

"When you go on stage, you have to have confidence, and I think body building has helped me take that out into the rest of my life. People can often feel very judged at my age, and hold parts of themselves back. Body building has really helped me in terms of my self-esteem."

You can donate to Sarah's fundraiser by visiting: and visit her Instagram account at sarahburdock_

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