Olympic champion seeks world and Rio double as she warns rest of division she has yet to reach her peak. Lee Sobot reports.
LEEDS’s global boxing sensation Nicola Adams insists she’s better than ever ahead of a bid to make yet more history at her second Olympic Games.
Given her previous glories, it would be easy to think that Adams’s place at Rio 2016 would be guaranteed.
After all, the Leeds ace is the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title and is the reigning flyweight Games champion.
On the contrary, however, as the 33-year-old still has to qualify.
But that is quite all right with Adams, who is looking forward to proving she can still cut the mustard in the Turkey qualifiers before making more history at her second Olympics.
Former Burmantofts Amateur Boxing Club fighter Adams shot to fame at London 2012 where her defeat of world No 1 Ren Cancan in the flyweight final made her the first Olympic women’s boxing gold medallist in history.
The Yorkshire fighter has since become a household name with appearances on a multitude of TV shows including A League Of Their Own and All Star Family Fortunes.
But it is her own fortunes at Rio 2016 that are top of the boxer’s priorities ahead of her forthcoming assignment for Great Britain at the European Continental qualification event in Samsun, Turkey.
Competition began yesterday with Adams needing to reach the final in order to qualify for her second Olympics.
Should the flyweight fall short, next month’s World Championships offers a second and final chance to seal a place on the plane to South America.
But Adams is planning on needing no second invitation as the boxer aims to prove she is not just as good as she was in the build-up to London 2012 – but even better.
Taking time out of her busy schedule before flying to Turkey, Adams told the YEP: “I actually still have to qualify and go there and prove that I am worthy of a spot at the Olympics.
“But, do you know what, it actually feels pretty good because I think it kind of says a lot about your character if you are qualifying for the Games. It shows that you are still good enough and worthy enough to actually have a place to become an Olympian again.
“We’ve two chances to qualify which is more than we had last time – we just had one.
“Last time, it was the top eight at the World Championships but because there were so many people from Europe in the top eight we had to make it the top four.
“It’s a lot nicer knowing that this isn’t your only shot to qualify for the Olympics!
“But I’m not planning on needing that second time around, it’s just going to get done, no messing around.”
Although Adams hopes to head to next month’s World Championships in Kazakhstan with qualification already achieved, the event is a hugely important competition for her. That is because a world championship gold is the only medal missing from her impressive CV.
The flyweight would then make history merely by competing at Rio but Adams is quietly confident of retaining her crown, irrespective of the current world rankings.
Adams explained: “We have never had a double Olympic boxing champion before, either male or female. That’s going to be a huge incentive and I don’t think GB boxing has even had somebody even go to a second Olympics.
“I guess I will be one of the favourites being an Olympic champion but, as far as the rankings are concerned, I wasn’t able to do the World Championships last year because I had an operation so I missed out on a few ranking points. It would have been nice to have seen me higher up the board but I guess no matter what the ranking points and the rankings are, everybody knows that I am a force to be reckoned with.
“I think I am fifth in the world or something but I know last year I wasn’t even ranked at all until I was in the European Games and then I got some points back on the board.”
Expect plenty more points and prizes to follow, with Adams even sizing up the possibility of competing in her third Summer Olympics at Tokyo 2020.
Adams pondered: “I’ve been thinking maybe Tokyo, who knows, maybe I will try the professional game. At the moment, I am just trying to get through to Rio, get that challenge out of the way first! I think I’m a lot more of a rounded athlete now.
“I’ve got so much more experience now, I know what it’s like to go to an Olympic qualifying event, I know what it’s like boxing at the Olympics and I know what the pressure is like. I feel a lot more confident in myself going into an Olympics. I’m definitely a lot better boxer than I was four years ago and I think boxing is one of those sports where you get better as you get older and you get more experience.
“You are always constantly learning all of the time and it’s not like sports like swimming and athletics where you are more powerful and it’s all about how fast you go. As you get older you are not going to be as fast. But in the boxing ring you have the likes of Floyd Mayweather retiring at 37 undefeated and you just see as you get older that you progress in your career.
“I have just turned 33, and at 36 you see the boxers at their peak – Carl Froch retiring at 37 – these boxers are boxing at their peak and they have got better as they have got older.”
Adams is now ready to prove the same is true of herself, before her attentions can turn back towards two other big passions – her Pomeranian dog Bailey – and the rather burgeoning matter of her TV and acting career.
“That’s pretty much on the back burner for a little bit,” laughed Adams. “Just because I am trying to focus on the qualifiers and Rio. After that I will be able to do as much as I want. A bit of acting maybe.”
First up comes the bid to take centre stage in Rio, where Adams will be joined by brother Kurtis and not mum Dee. “My brother is going because my mum said she wants to stay and look after the dog. She will be watching from home I think! I think she is becoming quite attached to the dog now. I think I might be losing him...”