Despite taking time off to enjoy her success post Rio 2016, Hammersmith para-equestrian star Natasha Baker insists thoughts of retiring never entered her mind.
Baker headed to Brazil as one to watch after winning two gold medals at London 2012, as well as setting a new Paralympic record with a score of 76.857 per cent for her grade II classification.
And the 26-year-old didn’t disappoint, leaving Rio with three gold medals this time as she added the team event title to her CV after successfully defending her two individual gongs – once again riding gelding Cabral.
But having failed to rewrite the record books in Brazil, Baker reveals she has no intention of stopping any time soon, with Tokyo 2020 firmly in her sights.
“I’ve had a bit of a break since I’ve been back from Rio,” Baker said.
“It’s been really lovely. I think you work so hard for such a long time to achieve something and then if you go straight back to training you feel a bit flat.
“I’ve been out celebrating, doing lots of corporate events and really just enjoying life. I’m going on holiday in a couple of weeks’ time to chill out and just do nothing.
“In the New Year I’ll be back into training and back into the diet aiming towards Tokyo, which won’t be far away.
“There were never any thoughts of retiring and I want to win more!
“I broke the Paralympic record in London 2012 and I would’ve loved to do that in Rio but unfortunately I didn’t. My aim for Tokyo is to win another three gold medals and break my record from London 2012.
“I haven’t won the World Championships yet so that is a big one on my list that I’d love to tick off. I’d love to become world, Paralympic and European champion at the same time so hopefully over the next few years I can achieve that.”
Baker was speaking at the SportsAid SportsBall as the charity celebrated its 40th anniversary at a star-studded event in London, on Thursday.
And Baker admits that without the help of SportsAid she might not be able to call herself a five-time Paralympic champion.
“SportsAid makes such a big difference to athletes when you’re starting out at the beginning,” she added.
“Being an equestrian rider I am in quite an expensive sport. Every bit of funding that we get makes such a big difference, and it meant that from that early age I was able to go to more competitions, have that little bit of extra training, get a bit of kit that I maybe could not afford and it just gives you that little bit extra that props you up and gets you to the top a little bit quicker.
“It’s hugely important. Without the money I probably would not have been here.
“It is so important when we, as such a sporting nation, give people chances and I think it’s so much harder when you’re starting out in sport.
“When you get to the top you get Lottery funding, but when you’re starting at the bottom you just want that little bit of a leg up and it makes all the difference when you get to the top.
“I think it’s invaluable at the beginning when you’re just crying out for that little extra bit of support.”
SportsAid’s 40th anniversary SportsBall was sponsored by Eversheds and SSE. What will you do to support the next generation of sporting talent? Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk to find out how you can help.