In great Nic: Golden girl Adams heads for Rio… and then an acting role in Corrie
23:10 GMT, 12 December 2012
Nicola Adams is grinning. The Olympic flyweight champion, the first female boxer to win a gold medal at the Games, has a few ‘good incentives’ in mind as she discusses her plans.
Even after a ‘mad’ few months in which her life has changed beyond recognition, Adams has more history-making moments up her sleeve.
‘I’m going to stay amateur,’ she says. ‘I’ve still got to get my world gold and women’s boxing will be in the Commonwealths (in Glasgow in 2014). Another first under my belt.
‘Rio 2016 Definitely. Double Olympic boxing champion. Great Britain hasn’t had one yet, so I’m looking forward to that, too.’
Winner by a smile: Nicola Adams takes the Olympic women's flyweight gold medal by beating China's Ren Cancan 16-7 on points
And after that Adams, who has worked as an extra on Coronation Street and Emmerdale, would like to return to acting.
‘I was in a court scene in Coronation Street,’ she says. ‘Something to do with Gail, I think. I thought it was really cool. I did contemplate going into acting, so I think I’ll probably do a bit of that in the future. Boxing is entertainment, too, isn’t it’
We meet at a college in Hammersmith, west London, where Adams is promoting Us Girls, an initiative to help 30,000 young women from disadvantaged areas become more active.
Adams boings over, all 5ft 5in of her, beaming that unmistakable smile, despite being continually interrupted by girls asking for pictures and autographs.
‘Babyface’ has just turned 30, but every bit of that childlike, pinch-yourself excitement that so endeared her to the nation during the Games is intact.
Thumping: Adams lands a savage right to floor Cancan
She has met the Queen —‘twice, actually’ — and had to apologise to the Duchess of Cambridge who said she got a sore throat after watching Adams fight ‘because she was screaming and cheering the whole way through’.
She flew to Brazil with David Cameron — ‘We were late but he said, “It’s OK, it’s my plane” ’ — and was thrilled to meet her hero, Sugar Ray Leonard, whose fights she used to watch on video with her father, Innocent.
‘I was really in awe,’ she says. ‘Sugar Ray Leonard was asking what made me start boxing and I said, “Well, you”.
‘Meeting the Queen was great, too. I was at the front of the queue, so I was quite nervous. I’d been practising my curtsey all week, so I had it down to a T when she came round.
‘But it’s just been a bit mad. Life’s changed massively. I go shopping at strange times of the day because, just walking down the road, everyone’s congratulating me. I just think it’s nice, you know, having that appreciation and knowing I’ve touched so many people.’
On the deck: Adams stands above Cancan after flooring the world No 1 in the second round
Adams still seems genuinely overwhelmed by what has happened to her since she beat China’s Ren Cancan to win gold last August. She talks about the ‘bubble’ of competing at a home Games, being entirely focused on her own goals and then being astounded to find she was a household name.
It was not only the significance of her achievement, but the manner in which she realised it that has seen her included on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday. The honour means so much that she can only say ‘wow’ over and over again, but her accomplishments speak for themselves.
That smile seemed to encapsulate the British feelgood factor of the Games, while subtly undoing every tired old stereotype you could throw at a woman in a pair of boxing gloves.
Adams’ determination and talent convinced the doubters as she made history in her own, down-to-earth way and then promptly declared she wanted to celebrate at Nando’s. ‘I get quite a bit of free food,’ she says, giggling.
Yet Adams seems slightly reluctant to take up the mantle of being a trailblazer for women’s sport, despite the humility and pride she shows when girls tell her they have taken up boxing. She declines to pose with pink boxing gloves, although she signs them to be auctioned for charity, and her verdict on being the first woman to receive an award from the Boxing Writers’ Club of Great Britain is telling.
Victory moment: Adams is crowned Olympic champion at the ExCel
‘To get an award (the Joe Bromley Award for outstanding services to boxing) a lot of great boxers have got before me — Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis — is amazing. Now I’ll be on the plaque as well. That’s what I want to be known as — a good boxer.
‘There has been, “Women shouldn’t be in the gym and women shouldn’t like boxing”. But I liked changing people’s minds. People would see me perform and say, “You box better than half of the lads in my gym!”. And, just to hear that, it means I’ve done a good job.’
Adams never set out to be a role model. She got into the sport by accident when her mother Dee, who is divorced from Adams’ father, could not get a babysitter one night. Mrs Adams dropped Nicola and her younger brother Kurtis at an after-school boxing club while she did an aerobics class. Adams was hooked, even if she still hates running.
‘I tried the shuffle and that was it,’ she said. ‘I just loved it. I’d get in the mirror, shadow boxing, and doing pads. I loved the skill and technique of it and being able to get in that ring and perform and make people cheer. I think that’s why I enjoyed the Olympics so much: the louder the crowd cheered, the more I did and the better I performed.
‘Even before it was an Olympic sport, when I was little, I would say I was going to be a world champion and I would box in the Olympics. But to think I finally got to do it was like a dream come true, and to win the medal and be the first one ever… it’s definitely a fairytale ending. You can’t beat that. It’s almost like it was meant to be that way.’
Golden wonder: Queen of the ring Adams kisses her medal
There were difficulties along the way. At times Adams struggled to fund her career, and she also had to overcome a serious back injury after falling down 10 stairs at her home in Leeds in 2009.
She tripped over her hand bandages as she hurriedly packed for a fight and damaged her vertebrae, yet still managed to win.
After that came three months in bed, barely able to move, and then a further nine months wearing a back brace. When it was announced that women’s boxing would be included at London 2012, Adams was lying flat on her back.
‘The first time I got back in the ring and sparred after being out for a year it was a shock to the system. But I worked hard and I got back myself back together… and I got the gold.’
She is smiling again, just as she has done every time she mentions that precious medal.
Us Girls, delivered by StreetGames, aims to develop stronger infrastructure in deprived areas to drive up women’s sports participation. For more information go to: @UsGirlsTweet