Interview: Adams staying true to roots on centre stage

Leeds boxer Nicola Adams
Leeds boxer Nicola Adams
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TIMES were so tough for Nicola Adams growing up that the Burmantofts-based teenager once faced up to the prospect of not being able to afford boxing lessons.

Mum Dee and her daughter had to scrimp and save for every pound with the boxer vowing to buy her mother a larger house if she ever made it big.

The first instalment of that bargain was landed in stunning style in the summer of 2012 as Adams became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title.

Yet the second part has been less straightforward with Adams revealing that moving her grounded mum has been easier said than done, even in light of a Twitter following fit for royalty.

Plenty has changed since the boxer’s career-defining moment of 2012 when defeating China’s Ren Cancan in the flyweight final. Eighteen-months on and the 31-year-old is one of Britain’s most recognisable sporting talents and one of the faces of Marks & Spencer’s ‘Leading Ladies’ fashion label.

Even her mother is in demand – so much so that she is followed by Zara Phillips on Twitter.

Yet Yorkshire’s boxing princess and her family insist on remaining loyal to their Leeds and Burmantofts roots.

In a bid to raise funds, Adams, formerly a decorator, often appeared as a TV extra whilst growing up and the Leeds boxer was once an unrecognisable figure in the background of a Coronation Street scene.

In light of countless TV appearances as the star attraction after London 2012, including on Family Fortunes and Waterloo Road, the former Agnes Stewart Church of England High School pupil knows gone are the days of being an ‘extra.’

But a grounded attitude is typified by mum Dee who, despite her daughter’s urgings, has still yet to move from the original and humble family home.

Adams is trying – it was part of the original promise after all – but whilst the Yorkshire ace can conquer the female boxing world, getting her mother to leave her Burmantofts estate is another matter altogether. Dee, it seems – like her daughter – is simply thriving on enjoying that rare mix of fame while remaining firmly connected to those original roots.

“Mum is really, really enjoying life and she’s really happy with everything that I have achieved,” a proud Adams exclusively told The Yorkshire Post. “Plus my brother Kurt is doing well now – he’s a PE teacher and everything seems to be going really well. I brought my brother a new house but my mum doesn’t really want to move yet. I’m trying to persuade her but it’s hard getting her to move. She doesn’t want to move. But that’s true about Zara Phillips following my mum on Twitter. My mum is building up quite a following now!”

As too is Adams whose Twitter following stood at 72,000 at the last time of counting. Life is very different to what it used to be but the flyweight could not be prouder.

“It took a while to get used to at first, not being able to just casually go about my usual shopping and everything,” said Adams, famed for her big beaming smile.

“But I’ve got used to it now and I just think it’s nice that people have followed me through the Games and they are now showing their appreciation for me winning the gold medal and how well I’ve been doing.

“I’m really proud at how everything has gone and I was really amazed at how much everybody took to women’s boxing. It was the first time it had been in the Olympics and it was the first time most people had seen women’s boxing and I was just absolutely amazed at how much the public got behind everybody and watched the boxing. I just wish I could put it into words how happy I am and it’s just nice to see that people love the sport as much as I do.

“Winning that medal has totally sunk in now but every now and again it’s nice to think for a minute about how well I did do.”

If Adams ever needed another reminder, developments outside the ring since the summer of 2012 leave no doubt whatsoever.

As well as becoming an MBE, the Olympic hero is an ambassador for multiple charities. The glitz and glamour has taken a bit of acclimatising to but Adams would not change it for the world.

“It’s been an absolutely amazing experience – especially being able to be one of the faces for Marks & Spencer,” said the Team GB star.

“That was an opportunity of a lifetime for me and there’s just been so many different things I have been involved with like doing charity work for Sports Relief and travelling to Africa.

“Then there was appearing on Waterloo Road and doing a bit of acting – it’s been fantastic, it really has. In Waterloo Road it was good actually having a proper part and not being an extra. I think it would be a bit hard for me to be an extra now. I think you’d spot me a mile off!”

Adams is slightly less recognised on the continent, from where she has just returned having won the Feliks Stamm tournament in Warsaw.

The competition represented her first competitive outing since returning from injury to land the Women’s EU Championships last July.

Ever since London 2012, Adams has stayed dedicated to a gruelling training regime, training five times a week for three times a day in Sheffield, meaning visits back to Leeds are only occasional.

While the boxer may be the reigning Olympic champion, she is not finished yet.

Fresh from her Polish success, matters inside the ring are about to step up another gear with three specific 2014 targets – the European Championships in Bucharest next month, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July and the World Championships in South Korea in November.

Then, in another two years’ time comes the real big one – the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and even that might not be the end.

“This year is really important for me,” said Adams. “I want a gold in the Commonwealths, a gold in the worlds and, hopefully, after that I can go on to get a gold in Rio.

“We’ve never had a double Olympic champion in boxing before and I’d love to be able to do that and create some more history.

“I always wanted to go on and do Rio and because I still haven’t had a world championship gold yet there’s still a lot of goals that I want to achieve. Rio is definitely one of them.

“As for this year, I want to retain my title in the European Championships and, hopefully, be the first female to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and become a world champion which I’ve never done. I’ve had three silver medals and I want to get a gold. I really want that one – I really do.”

You sense she will probably get it en route to a crack at Rio when Adams will be 33. It could be that after Rio talk of Tokyo 2020 is even entertained. “My coaches keep telling me that I could go on and do the Olympics after that but I’m just trying to focus on Rio first and then I’ll see.

“I probably will carry on boxing because I love the sport. I’m just trying to keep my mind set on the here and now. I’ve still got a lot to achieve.”