Standing at five feet four inches, Nicola Adams is all smiles and dimples. That’s until you get her in the ring, then it’s time for the Muhammad Ali shuffles, the spearing jabs and clubbing rights that won her Gold at London 2012.
Adams is an Olympic champion, 17 years in the making. Her boxing career began at a leisure centre in Leeds at the age of 12. Wanting to attend an aerobics class and unable to find a babysitter, Adams’ mum brought her along to the centre. Adams spotted an after-school boxing class and wanted to give it a go. And so the script began.
The sole female boxer at her club, Adams worked hard to fund her passion, holding down a variety of different jobs from painter-decorator to working as an extra in television shows like Emmerdale and Coronation Street.
Adams’ boxing career began to gather momentum when she signed up as part of the GB amateur boxing programme.
Being part of the programme means she has everything she needs under one roof – world-class facilities, coaching, nutritionists and sports scientists.
“We all work hard,” says Adams, before documenting an average training day, which includes among other things, “hundreds” of sit-ups.
Throughout her career Adams has looked to Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard for inspiration. She watched footage of them winning Olympic titles, saw how hard they worked for the glory and wanted a piece of it.
Sitting with her Olympic Gold medal in her pocket, she says, “Ever since I saw those videos I’ve been dreaming of winning Olympic Gold.”
Adams admits she has had many dream-like moments following her success at the Olympics – award ceremonies, movie premieres, chat shows and a trip to Rio with the Prime Minister. However, one memory stands out for the 30-year-old. A week after she won Gold in London she attended an event at which Sugar Ray Leonard was also attending.
“He came up to me, he knew who I was and what I’d done. It was so surreal. Goodness knows how many times I’ve watched his fights. He’s one of my heroes and I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Adams’ boxing career has been defined by a number of firsts. She was the first woman to win a medal in a major tournament at the 2007 European Championships and the first woman to win Olympic boxing Gold at the London 2012 Olympics. Commonwealth Games Women’s Boxing makes its debut at Glasgow 2014 and Adams’ has her sights set on being the first woman to win Commonwealth Gold.
“Glasgow 2014 means everything to me,” she says. “It’s another chance for me to make history and it will be amazing to see the streets of Glasgow light up. It’s like another home Games, I’m really looking forward to it.”