Nicola Adams: 'It's nice to see so many girls involved in the sport I love'

You are unlikely to open your newspaper any time soon to find Nicola Adams, whose beaming face came to symbolise the delight of a nation let loose in the London 2012 sweet shop better than any other, complaining about the pressures of fame.

As she prepares to return to elite competition in the European Championships in Hungary at the start of next month, the Olympic flyweight gold medallist is refreshingly honest about the extent to which she has relished every minute of her extended post-Games victory lap.

"If you'd told me how much my life would change, I'd never have believed you," says Adams, who will shortly depart for a pre-championships training camp in France.

"It's been absolutely amazing, I've been here there and everywhere. I've met so many inspirational people and it's been fantastic to be able to do all that from winning my gold medal."

This time last year, she was in intensive training and yet to move anonymously into the Olympic Village before a fortnight that would change her life. Initial curiosity at the inclusion of women's boxing had long since dissolved into rampant support by the time she beat the Chinese Ren Cancan in the final at a noisily partisan ExCeL Arena.

Her post-Games journey has taken in a trip to Rio de Janeiro with the prime minister, an MBE and a sportswoman of the year award from Glamour magazine but ask her about her highlights and, alongside the trip to Buckingham Palace, she will cite appearing with the Adams clan on the ITV tea-time game show Family Fortunes.

"My mum is over the moon. She can't believe how far I've come from her taking me to the gym, driving me up and down and washing the training gear day in, day out.

"It's lovely for her that it's all paid off – all the ups and downs and the crying and everything else, she's really happy," says Adams, perhaps remembering the injury woes that once left her bed ridden and contemplating her future in a sport that itself faced an unclear fate before it was accepted into the Olympics for the first time in London.

Nor does doesn't seem to have suffered from any Bradley Wiggins-esque bouts of existential angst over her post-Games fame. "I've enjoyed every minute of it, to be fair. It's really nice to see those people thinking of women's boxing so well. I'm just so happy and grateful," says the Leeds-born fighter.

Ask whether, just occasionally, she gets annoyed at being asked for a photograph or an autograph and she sounds mildly bemused. "Not at all. It comes with the territory."

Sport England figures released this week made for mixed reading for those who believed the Games would result in a sportier nation but in women's boxing the effect has been marked – the number of 16-to-19-year-olds taking up the sport has increased by 50%.

For Adams, it is one of her proudest achievements: "I'm not sure how much you can put down to me. But it's really nice to see so many girls taking part in boxing – the sport I enjoy and love so much."

The sport has come a long way, but it must have been hard for Adams watching some of her male colleagues head off into the professional ranks and a potential fortune since the Games. Not that she would ever admit it.

"Even the boxers that have turned pro still come down to the gym to say hi and to see how everyone is getting on. We've almost got a family unit – we see other every day and we train together every day. I see more of the coaches and the other boxers than I do my own family," says Adams, who insists their coaches have kept them away from the chaos in the boardroom above them that has led to the ousting of the British Amateur Boxing Association chairman, Derek Mapp, and stern warnings over the way the sport is run.

And while meeting the Queen and naming five parts of the body on a primetime quiz show are all very well, she insists her training schedule always comes first. The 30-year-old says she can't wait to get back to competitive action in Keszthely, from where she is confident of returning with another gold.

"I'm itching to go out there. I'm so happy it's only a few weeks away and I can't wait to get back into the ring. I'm feeling in really good shape."

Adams, who lives alone in Sheffield where Britain's Olympic boxers are based but confesses to regularly returning to her mum's for Sunday lunch, says she and her coach plan "tournament by tournament" but she must already have half an eye on Rio in three years' time.

Her beaming smile and sunny disposition can't hide a steely streak and she says winning her life-changing gold in London has made her more, not less, hungry for now that every opponent wants to topple her.

"I see everybody as a potential threat. Everyone wants to win that gold medal and everyone wants that No1 spot, I don't take anybody lightly."

Powered by article was written by Owen Gibson, for The Guardian on Friday 14th June 2013 17.55 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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