Adams torn between making movies and Tokyo 2020
Olympic boxing champion faces a dilemma over the next stage of her career, she tells Gareth A Davies
It is not surprising that double Olympic flyweight champion Nicola Adams would like to see athlete Mo Farah take the Sports Personality of the Year honours if boxing’s most adept female amateur fails to get the public vote tonight. Of all Farah’s qualities, she admires how he recovered from being knocked to the ground in the Olympic 10,000 metres final and went on to claim gold. “For me, it has to be Mo Farah. Getting up off the floor and going on to win took a lot of determination,” the 34-year-old told The Sunday Telegraph. “It is the mark of a champion.” Boxers know that perhaps more than any other sportspeople.
Adams battled back from injury in 2015 to become a creative fighting force, describing 2016 as “the dream year”. “I’m over the moon to be in the SPOTY shortlist again [Adams finished eighth in the public vote in 2012],” explained the ‘Smiling Assassin’, as the flyweight is known. “I’ve achieved everything I need to achieve in my sport. I’m No 1 in the world, I’ve got the grand slam of titles, the world, Europeans, Commonwealth and I’m double Olympic champion.”
At the start of 2016, Adams targeted that ‘grand slam’ of world, European and Olympic gold. “That would have been the plan. As we know, boxing is a hard sport and you have to work really hard to achieve all those goals, especially in one year. I got gold in the European Championships in April and then went on from there, a couple of weeks after, and got gold at the world championships and then went on to the Olympics a few weeks after that and got gold there. It was a really tough few months, but there was deep satisfaction at the end of the summer.”
Growing recognition as one of Britain’s leading female sports stars, and indeed role models, has led to the woman from Leeds being invited to guest-edit BBC Radio 4’s Today, which will have an all-female cast of guest editors for the first time over Christmas. Adams joins actor Carey Mulligan, businesswoman Helena Morrissey and the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, for a week of programming starting the day after Boxing Day.
Adams will oversee the programme on Dec 29 with segments on combat sports and women’s boxing. Contributors will include Gordon Ramsay discussing his love of martial arts and boxer Ricky Hatton talking about his experiences of depression.
“It’s quite exciting,” explained Adams. “I’ve never done anything like that before so it’s going to be cool. I’m hoping to make everybody smile as they start their day. Deep down, I just want to make it ‘fun’.”
In spite of being an elite athlete in one of the toughest individual sports, Adams fights with a smile. But she is always deeply competitive, too, even with SPOTY. “I need to make the top three this year. Hopefully I can.”
Her call to the British public is straightforward. “I’d like to hope the public would vote for me. I’ve achieved everything there is to achieve in my sport. There is nothing else I can win. I’m ranked No 1. I’d like to think they’d take that into consideration.”
Adams believes that more boxers should have been on the shortlist – such as two-weight world champion Carl Frampton and world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. But she admits “it was a really tough year and it must have been hard for the judging panel. There were so many gold medallists at the Olympics”.
Adams is now considering whether to pledge herself to another four-year cycle to compete at Tokyo 2020, which could place her alongside the elite list of boxers to have won gold at three successive Games: only László Papp, Félix Savón and Teófilo Stevenson have achieved it. But another option is to join the professional ranks.
“The last four years have been hard. Being ranked No 1, everybody’s chasing you, everybody wants to be where you are. They want to be the person who beats Nicola Adams,” she explained. “It’s easy to sit at the top and take things lightly and think you’ve made it and nobody can beat you now. You can take your foot off the gas. Then somebody comes up, an underdog, and knocks you off the top of the podium. I’ve just shown how focus and determined I can be when I put my mind to it.
“I’m still having a good think about the next four years. Turning pro would be an exciting challenge for me, opening new doors, new challenges, new titles I can take – European, world. I’d love to be able to do that. It’s definitely an option.”
But there will be no rush in that decision. “I haven’t sat down with my team to decide whether I’m going to do the pro thing, go to Tokyo, or even go into acting. I’ve already been doing acting lessons. I’m taking it seriously. I like the idea of a new challenge. I’ll be deciding in the next few weeks.”
As Adams looks back on 2016, an annus mirabilis on her résumé, there is a nod to her extended teams. “My team at GB boxing, my family, my partner. I owe it all to them for keeping me together. You need to be selfish in this sport. I miss birthdays, weddings, christenings because I’m always in training or at a tournament. Without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
‘I’d like to think the public would vote for me. I’ve achieved all there is to achieve in my sport’
Fists of glory: Nicola Adams celebrates in Rio after winning her second successive Olympic gold