It is a year to go before the XXXI Olympic Games open in Rio on August 5, 2016, so the countdown begins in earnest right here. Only Olympians themselves can know exactly what that combination of stress, pain, anticipation and training entails. Gail Emms, badminton silver medallist in 2004, remembers: “A year out from Athens was great – I was soooo excited – but one month to go and I was very stressed and panicking a lot. A year out from Beijing, four years later, and even though I was more experienced, it felt a bit like a ticking time-bomb. I was so stressed I ground my teeth in my sleep and was constantly knackered.”
It might be tactful not to mention that to Team GB’s Nicola Adams, the first woman in history to win an Olympic boxing gold, as she prepares to compete at her second Games in 2016. Here, in the first of an occasional series where our most famous and successful athletes talk to each other, Gail Emms interviews Nicola Adams exclusively for The Mixed Zone.
Nicola, thank you so much for doing this interview for The Mixed Zone, the online place where sportswomen support each other. How is the support in the GB women’s boxing camp?
We all train in the same centre in Sheffield, but we don’t feel too alienated as a sport. There are not too many other sports around practicing, but we do get to see Jess Ennis-Hill when we are in the gym. We get to speak to her a bit.
As someone who has never been in a fight, and walked right out of my kickboxing training when a girl caught me with a left hook, does it get a bit feisty in the squad before a big competition?
Nah, not really! It’s all about the performance in those big tournaments to see whether you get selected. If you’re the one with all the gold medals then there’s no need for all that! If you’re the one in the gym who’s been winning, the others can’t really argue with that.
You are one of the older and more experienced boxers, do the younger ones bow down to you?
No, not really, they just come up to me for advice on how to be a better boxer.
Do you enjoy that ‘big sister’ role?
Yeah, I do because I have so much experience now and it is nice to see the younger ones coming through and wanting to win medals and do what I did. It’s nice to pass on my knowledge. I’ve been there and done it. I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t experienced!
Is the advice about how to deal with family issues and lack of support with boxing?
No, not at all – only journalists have ever asked me about dads and families not supporting their daughters. The kids are normally asking me: “I’ve got my first competition coming up, how shall I prepare?” and “I’m trying to make this weight division, any tips on how to lose weight properly?” and “What are the best tactics to fight this opponent?” and “I’ve just started boxing, how do I become an Olympic champion?”
You are the first female Olympic and Commonwealth boxing champion. Does it still mean a lot to you what you have done for women in sport?
Yeah, it definitely still means a lot to me and I still think it is absolutely amazing what I have achieved with the Olympics, Commonwealth and now the European Games. It’s nice to think that I’m helping to create a pathway for the younger girls to grow up in the sport and win medals. It will become a thing of the past that girls weren’t allowed to box. They will think that women have always done this and no one will be able to remember a time when they didn’t box.
How do you deal with the fact that your sport is subjective with the judges awarding points which could be the difference between a medal and nothing?
Sometimes it can be really frustrating as it is in the eyes of the judges, what they might see and another judge might not see. It can all depend on the angle of where you are around the ring. You just have to go into that ring, believe that you can do it, and do enough to convince all the judges that there is no doubt who is the better boxer. If the opponent isn’t punching you, and you are punching them, there can only be one winner!
Rio – one year to go … The first Olympic Games for an athlete takes ages to come around, but the second creeps up fast…
Yeah, I’ve been ticking off the tournaments and then all of a sudden, it’s a year to go to the next Olympic Games. It’s amazing that the next year is all about training. As an athlete, you’re always focusing on the next tournament and before you know it, the Olympics are there.
Do you visualise yourself in the ring at Rio 2016?
Not yet … But once it gets closer I will!
Any worries? I used to have nightmares of competing for Team GB in just my underwear…
Ha ha! No, you’re on your own on that one!
Damn… So what about the future? Do you think about life post-boxing?
Well I’m focusing on Rio 2016 at the moment, but after that I’d like to have a go at professional boxing as well as trying TV presenting and do some more acting.
Are we talking Hollywood?
It’s something I’ve always loved doing, so yeah, definitely Hollywood!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gail Emms MBE is one of Britain’s most successful badminton players, best remembered for her silver medal in the mixed doubles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. With partner Nathan Robertson, she won gold at the World Championships in 2006, the Commonwealth Games in the same year, and the European Championships in 2004. Gail was six times national mixed doubles champion and national ladies doubles champion five times. Since retiring after the Beijing Olympic Games, Gail has been a versatile sports presenter on a variety of television and radio programmes. She was awarded the MBE for services to badminton in 2009. She is the mother of two boys.
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