Weekend Interview: Natasha Gale plots own route out of Nicola Adams's shadow
YORKSHIRE'S rising star of women's boxing Natasha Gale is fully aware that comparisons will be drawn between herself and double Olympic champion Nicola Adams.
Both come from Leeds, the duo have shared the same technical coach in Alwyn Belcher and in 2016 Gale emulated Adams by becoming European Champion.
Gale, though, is keen to keep her own identity.
“I don’t want to be the next Nicola Adams,” says the honest talking fighter.
“I’m just Natasha Gale.”
However, she hopes there will be one more similarity between the duo after the summer of 2020 with the 75kg star determined to bring her coach another Olympic gold.
Gale, 29, rounded off her first full year as a European champion with victory in this month’s GB Championships where the Leeds-born fighter overcame Roseanna Cox to confirm her status as Great Britain’s leading middleweight.
An even bigger year potentially awaits in 2018 with Gale set to defend her European title as part of a campaign that also features the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
All three were titles scooped by Adams, who had a similar upbringing to Gale in West Yorkshire’s biggest city before going on to be Britain’s most successful female boxer.
Adams, who has now turned professional, also provided the inspiration for Gale to take to the ring with Gale determined to follow the ‘baby-faced assassin’s’ lead after seeing her win her first Olympics title at London 2012.
But she is adamant that success in the ring will be achieved her way – at a different weight and with a very different background story – though ultimately eyeing the same conclusion at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Faced with the prospect of answering if Natasha Gale was ‘the next Nicola Adams’, Gale told The Yorkshire Post: “People do say that and I don’t want to be the next Nicola Adams. I’m just Natasha Gale. She is my friend, but to be honest I am just doing my own thing and it sometimes frustrates me.
“It’s nice to be compared to her, but I am 75kg, she is 51kg and it sometimes just gets a little bit overshadowed.
“It’s a different story because she has boxed since she was about nine. I started at 24 and the similarity is that we have got the same technical coach.
“When it comes to style and the boxing, I can understand the similarities there, but in terms of achievements, everyone would love to do as well as Nicola did for themselves and for the sport and for Great Britain.
“But I think that’s just everyone in general.
“I think just the fact that because we are both from Leeds and because we have got the same technical coach, every time I do an interview it’s Nicola this and Nicola that.”
Reflecting on Adams’s achievement in bagging two Olympic golds, Gale smiled: “No lads have done that.
“My coach Arwen said he wants another gold medal and he is like nearly 81 or something like that.
“It would be really nice because he has spent a lot of hours with us.
“I have still got loads left to learn, but I am definitely improving every day and I am definitely excited for next year though obviously nervous at the same time because I have never done a team GB event and I have never had such a major year.
“I am excited, nervous, but I am definitely ready for it and I have already started preparing for it now and doing my tech sessions with Arwen and making sure I get ready. I am excited.”
April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia will provide Gale’s first big mission of 2018 with the Gold Coast extravaganza swiftly followed by Europeans in May.
The tilt for a memorable hat-trick will then end with the World Championships in India in November.
“It’s what you dream of, isn’t it?” said Gale, eyeing a potential treble.
“I could win them all in one year, which is exciting because normally you have to wait another year. The fact they are all in one year is pretty cool.”
Incredibly, despite the very real prospect of winning those titles, only five years have passed since Gale first took to the ring and Adams provided both the inspiration and then a helping hand through her brother in making it happen.
“I started when I was 24 and I basically just watched Nicola at the Olympics in 2012 and thought, ‘I could do that’,” said Gale, who was studying at Bradford College at the time.
“I have known Nicola since before I got into boxing because her brother, Kurtis, is actually my best mate.
“He was the one who said, ‘you want to train with Alwyn’ so I ended up going down and we just clicked, instantly, and I literally moved my whole life to Sheffield.”
That move – to be close to the sport’s headquarters at the English Institute of Sport – came after two and half decades of life in Leeds.
Gale was raised in Chapeltown before moving to Little London, attending first Leopold Primary and then Primrose High School.
“Not that I was in it very much,” confessed Gale.
“I was a bit naughty, but I did really have a good body and I always excelled in PE and sport.”
Success in sport means there is little time to feel homesick for Gale as the boxer continues to put in the hard graft in her attempt to become the next golden girl of British boxing.
Christmas, though, is the time when Gale misses her home city the most.
Gale said: “Leeds is home, but because I am occupied and I am really busy, the most time I get really homesick is Christmas.
“The rest of the year is fine because I am buzzing with what I am doing and I am always busy, but at Christmas I get so homesick that I could cry.
“All the family is there and all my friends’ kids because I am a god parent though I never even see them, I don’t know why they asked me to be a god parent.
“I am only in Sheffield, obviously, because of boxing really otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
“But I do really like Sheffield, I must admit, and I do feel at home now.
“I have just got a little flat that I rent – nothing special – just something cheap and cheerful because I am in camp so it’s just for the weekend.”
The Steel City base will provide the launchpad to what Gale hopes will be the biggest year of her young career in 2018 – and a springboard for yet another gold medal for GB women’s boxing at Tokyo 2020.
But not before a few visits back to her home city over the Festive period and the fighter is somewhat spoiled for choice.
Gale smiled: “Everyone wants to cook me dinner, that’s the thing.
“Because I don’t go home that often everyone is like, ‘what do you want, I’ll cook you this and I’ll cook you that’.
“I can’t turn it all down – I have got cousins that want to cook for me that I don’t see – I am invited round to theirs and then there’s my dad and then my sister. Can you imagine the weight that I am going to have to get off when I get back into camp?”