Golden opportunity: from Olympic medallist to PhD researcher

Olympic gold medallist Lauren Burns has turned her hand to research, uncovering the key to elite athletic performance with the support of a generous industry sponsor.

Earning an Olympic Gold Medal in Taekwondo at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Lauren Burns is no stranger to the world of elite sports.

A qualified naturopath and nutritionist, she’s now looking into the science behind athletic success, undertaking a PhD through RMIT’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences.

Early findings show that championship performance often coincides with a combination of strong psychological health, personal support, effective performance strategies and lifestyle regulation.

Burns said the research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, would inform further work on understanding the particular conditions enabling success.

“Through this research, we highlighted that psychological factors and support networks are likely keys to success,” Burns said.

“The next step is looking at a much larger sample of athletes through a national survey to compare these practices between foundational and mastery level athletes.” 

Olympic gold medallist Lauren Burns is uncovering the key to elite athletic performance.

Burns received a research training scholarship from not for profit fund, the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies (JFNT), who were interested in understanding the impact of interpersonal relationships on performance.

“Having my own sporting experience gave me insight, but I knew formal research would have greater reach, highlighting the lifestyle factors and mindset needed to reach the next level, in sport and in life,” she said.

As well as supporting Burns, the JFNT partnered with RMIT to offer two other research scholarships for students in complementary medicines.

“There are such benefits to broadening research in our area, supporting our profession and growing knowledge. We are so thrilled to support researchers like Lauren,” said JFNT Board Director Pauline McCabe.

Read the RMIT Impact Report to see how donations make a difference to our students, researchers and community.

Story: Alicia Olive and Grace Taylor

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