Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing controversy and her hopes of starting a family.
Just two years ago, Nicola Adams was dominating the boxing ring as an undefeated, two-time Olympic gold medallist and world champion fighter. However, since retiring from the sport in November 2019 (after suffering an eye injury), Nicola, 38, from Leeds, has been dazzling us in other ways.
“The Lioness”, as she was dubbed in the boxing world, swapped her gloves for a pair of dancing shoes when she joined last year’s Strictly Come Dancing line-up as one half of the first same-sex couple to compete, alongside Strictly professional Katya Jones.
Although the pair went down a storm with viewers, her time on the show was abruptly cut short when Katya, 32, tested positive for Covid three weeks in.
Despite rumours that she might have been given a second chance by rejoining the show this year, Nicola has instead set her sights on a career in action movies. She’s also been spending time with her girlfriend of three years, model Ella Baig, 23.
We sat down to talk about their plans for a family, as well as this year’s Strictly vaccination drama…
Are you watching Strictly this year, Nicola?
I’m trying to catch it, but I’m quite busy! I’ve spoken to Katya and she’s good. She’s got a good dance partner [Olympian swimmer Adam Peaty, 26]. I’ve spoken to Adam a few times and I know he’s going to train hard. Nobody wants to get sick and have to pull out like we had to last year. But once you start training, everything else just goes out the window.
There’s been a lot of talk about which professionals aren’t vaccinated. Would you dance with an unvaccinated professional?
I haven’t heard much about what’s going on with the vaccines [furore]. It would be the same [safety measures going on Strictly this year] as it was last year – Covid was about then, so you’ve just got to go with it and see what happens.
Do you reflect on your time on the show much?
Not too much, I’m always focusing on my next goal or project. I’m all about wanting to improve myself, and anything new I can put my mind to is good. It was annoying that Covid knocked me and Katya out of Strictly, but I’m the type of person that likes to focus on the positives. I’d have definitely been in the final, though!
You’ve been with Ella for more than three years. What makes you guys work?
I guess we’re just fun, we’re good communicators and we’ve got a good vibe. I got a lot more time to spend with her [during lockdown] and it was nice to be at home. It wasn’t until lockdown that I realised how much I’m not at home usually.
Any plans to have a family together?
I’d love to have a family in the future, for sure. I say I want four [children] – I may change my mind! I’d want to pass on to them to be proud of who they are, as well as giving them that freedom to think for themselves and know that there are no limits. They really can achieve anything that they put their mind to. I’ll be there to help them every step of the way.
You were recently named Role Model of the Year at the British LGBT Awards. Have you always been confident in who you are?
I’ve always felt that way. You’re only on this earth for a short time and you don’t want to look back at your life and wish you’d done stuff differently or wish you’d been more yourself.
Have you ever struggled with trolling?
I still see stuff [on social media] now, but I think it’s important to not feed into that. It’s just somebody sat behind a keyboard or a phone that you don’t know, and they don’t know you either. The main thing for me is listening to the people around me – my friends, my family, my team. They are the people who matter to me – anyone else, it’s irrelevant what they say. It’s important to take that on board, and I know that’s difficult for some people. You can get a million good comments, but it will be that one bad comment that will stand out. You’ve just got to put that to the back of your mind.
Have you enjoyed seeing the recent success of other female athletes, such as US Open tennis champ Emma Raducanu and Olympic skateboarder Sky Brown?
It’s awesome! Especially with Sky, she’s so young. At 13, she’s already got an Olympic medal [bronze at Tokyo 2020]. It’s nice to see women are breaking boundaries all the time and there’s no limit on what we can do. Now, when I sit back and look at what I’ve achieved and the doors I’ve opened for other female boxers, it’s amazing. Lauren Price won a gold medal at the Olympics and she said that I inspired her – that’s what I wanted to do.
You’re also inspiring others to give plant-based diets a go…
We’re becoming more and more aware now that we need to eat more plant-based food to help the environment. For the past few years, I’ve been a plant-based eater and it’s made me feel a lot healthier and a lot better, which is why I’m supporting Alpro’s Plant-Based For Protein Lovers campaign. Soya is just a really good source of protein.
What’s next for you?
I’m focusing on my acting. It’s always been a passion of mine – but with training I didn’t have time to fit it in. Now the door’s open, I want to do TV and film – action movies would be my go-to. Being able to perform in front of the millions of people watching around the world at the Olympics definitely gives you confidence in yourself and your own ability. I have that determination and focus for all areas of life and I’ll use that drive to pursue all my goals.
- Nicola Adams is supporting Alpro’s Plant-Based For Protein Lovers campaign championing plant protein from soya (Alpro.com).
Photography: Additional photography: Backgrid, Getty Images, PA
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