Rio 2016: Nicola Adams eyes Olympic history – again

Nicola Adams

Nicola Adams

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Music awards, movie premieres and meetings with the Queen.

The fame and celebrity status of a record-breaking Olympic gold medallist is a far cry from the rugged upbringing of miniature powerhouse Nicola Adams.

Four years on from becoming the first female boxer to win an Olympic gold, the Leeds boxer is still beaming with a smile to light up any room.

And so she should.

Since securing the judges vote against Chinese great Ren Cancan in London, Adams has completed the grand slam of boxing medals, sealing it with a first world championships gold earlier this year.

And she knows that a second slice of Olympic history in Rio would cement her place amongst the Olympic boxing greats and of women’s sport in Britain.

“The thought of creating history is the motivation for me,” Adams told The Yorkshire Post.

“Along the way I have been able to create new goals and achieve new goals.

“I became the first female to win an Olympic medal in 2012 and then at the Commonwealth Games and the European Games, the first there too.

“No female has ever won the Olympic gold medal twice and I don’t think they have done it in the men’s since 1956, so it’s a long time coming.

“I want to cement a legacy.”

When Adams’ arm was raised aloft at the London ExCeL centre four years ago, new ground was unearthed in a traditionally male dominated sporting sphere.

That day, Adams walked into the ring to fight Cancan with the hopes of a nation, the weight of history and the dreams of a beaming Yorkshire terrier on her shoulders.

The 33-year-old was an underdog going into the London Games and took inspiration from the similarly-svelt Sugar Ray Leonard to harness a swift counter-punching tactic.

In the wider spectrum, too, she was a relative unknown, albeit a British ABA and European champion, with hopes of putting years of hard graft in the gym into action.

This time around, there is no hiding in the draw.

Like Cancan four years ago, Adams’ name will be the one hunted throughout the flyweight division – none more so than by the defeated Chinese fighter who takes her place in the draw once more.

The Leeds fighter goes to Rio ranked No 1 in the world after finally ending her world championship hoodoo by winning the gold medal in Astana, Kazakhstan in March.

After three successive silver medals at the championships, Adams defeated Peamwilai Laopeam of Thailand in the flyweight final to complete her set of major tournament victories.

The pressure of having a draw full of foes wanting to bring you down has not resonated with Adams.

Instead, it has given her extra motivation to put in the hard yards at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport.

“I actually prefer it,” said Adams, who will only require two wins in Rio to guarantee herself a place in the semi-finals and another Olympic medal.

“It spurs me on and keeps me motivated.

“I know that they are going to be coming for me because they all want to become Olympic champion.

“I need to make sure I give 110 per cent when I step into the ring in Rio, which I will 
do.

“I’m not going to let anything stop me.

“I always aim for gold. I always want the best and I will be aiming for gold when I go out there.

“I am ranked No 1 in the world now and I’m going to be the one that everyone is after.”

Born and raised in Leeds, Adams has had to fight in more ways than one to achieve her slice of boxing greatness.

Troublesome at school, her journey into boxing at Burmantofts Gym made her a figure of discipline and allowed her to focus on goals and set new ones when they were achieved.

Heading to Rio, she is the unofficial captain of Team GB’s boxing squad.

As the only member of the 12-strong squad – Britain’s biggest boxing part since Los Angeles in 1984 – that attended the Games in London four years ago, Adams has become the mentor of the younger fighters including Leeds colleague Qais Ashfaq and Keighley’s Muhammad Ali.

In the lead up to Rio, both of her male Yorkshire counterparts spoke of their reliance on her Olympic know-how, while Adams said she relishes her guardian angel role in the British squad.

She said: “I’m always happy to give advice.

“I know what it’s like to be in their position and to go to your first Olympics.

“You don’t know what to expect. For us going to London 2012 last time, we were all a new team.

“No one had been to an Olympics before. It’s nice for the others to have someone that they can ask what to expect.

“This time around I am more of an all-rounded athlete.

“I have got experience now and know what it’s like to go to an Olympic Games.

“I know what it’s like to compete, what the pressure will be like and what it’s like to be in the village.”

What has changed since London? Other than a slick haircut – shaved on the sides and styled on top – Adams insists very little.

“I’m still the same person but I just get to do a lot of cool stuff,” she said.

“Music awards, movie premières, meeting the 
queen, it’s all been really good fun.”

To put the switch to a celebrity status into perspective, before the premiere invitations began to roll in, her life outside of the ring saw her act as an extra on the set of television shows such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

The 33-year-old will leave all the glitz and glamour of her modern life behind when she aims for another slice of history of a landmark laden career in Rio.

Should Adams have her arm raised again in this year’s final, she will become the first boxer to retain an Olympic gold since Hungary’s László Papp at the Melbourne Games 60 years ago.

Some athletes may not have let the thought of making history cross their mind.

But for Adams, new landmarks have become a constant theme in her career and are at the top of her motivation as she pounds the punchbags over and over again in training.

“It makes me feel really good that I am being acknowledged for my achievements,” Adams explains.

“This year I got my world championship gold after three silver medals I finally got that gold and completed the grand slam of medals.

“That’s never been done before male or female.

“It’s nice to be able to think that I have been able to achieve that throughout my boxing career and to give the British public something to be proud of.”

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