Nicola Adams: ‘I had a hammer under my bed in case I needed to help my mum’ | Nicola Adams

Tright here was a lot chaos and violence in Nicola Adams’s life as a younger woman that, for her, boxing supplied a refuge. The ring felt like a protected place the place she may uncover bravery and resolve deep inside herself even when she felt misplaced and frightened. “I was overwhelmed by my dad and it wasn’t till my mum, my brother and I left, and I began boxing, that issues modified,” Adams says all these years later.

She is a double Olympic champion, having received gold at London 2012 after which once more 4 years later in Rio, however it’s only now that Adams can reveal that she advised her mom that they need to homicide her father to finish their misery. Her mum had different relationships with violent males in later years and Adams says she slept with a hammer under her bed as a means of preventing again.

“Boxing gave me that braveness and it made me suppose that if something occurred once more I’d have the ability to shield myself and my household. Boxing additionally grew to become my protected area as a result of there was a coach I noticed each day. It was like I had a second household and someone I may speak to. As soon as you bought into the fitness center you possibly can put all the pieces apart and be your self.”

Boxing is a soiled and harmful enterprise however it affords rather more mild than darkness. “It actually does,” Adams says softly. “Boxing gave me a profession, a possibility to shield myself, to get me and my household out of poverty. If it wasn’t for boxing I don’t know the place I’d be now.”


A robust new 90-minute documentary about Adams, directed with sensitivity and compassion by Helena Coan, takes us into the darkish coronary heart of her story. The movie strips naked the violence Adams says she witnessed and suffered, and likewise exhibits the staggering inequality and sexism she overcame in boxing. In giving area to different feminine fighters, such because the pioneering Jane Sofa, Amanda Coulson and Savannah Marshall, Coan highlights their immense battle to turn into boxers and the way Adams’s Olympic success reworked the game for ladies in the UK. However her private story drives the narrative.

“It was nearly like having remedy,” Adams says. “I was going by reminiscences I thought I’d forgotten about they usually had been coming again to life. When I watched the documentary I was like: ‘Whoa, I’ve truly gone by a lot and achieved a lot.’ However at some factors it was actually painful as a result of I was mentioning outdated emotions I haven’t talked about since I was actually younger.”

Nicola Adams says boxing grew to become her protected area: ‘As soon as you bought into the fitness center you possibly can put all the pieces apart and be your self.’ {Photograph}: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

When she was 5 years outdated, “my mum and pa had been preventing and I tried to step in and shield my mum. I tried to hit my dad with a little plastic sword, and I was simply pushed out of the best way.”

Was she frightened for a few years? “Yeah, as a result of I couldn’t inform anyone what was actually happening. So it was fairly a scary time.”


She finally advised her mum that she thought she had discovered a means out – after watching a cleaning soap opera in which a violent husband and father is murdered by his household. “I’d been watching this TV present, I suppose it was Brookside, they usually had been going by the identical scenario. I noticed my mum on the steps crying and I went up to her and stated: ‘It’s OK, I’ve acquired a plan. I’ve seen a TV present and I understand how to do away with my dad.’ I simply didn’t know the place we had been going to bury him, as a result of in the programme they had a again backyard. We had a backyard however it was paved with cement. I stated to my mum I didn’t know the place we’d do away with the physique and that was when she stated: ‘No, I want to change. We want to transfer.’”

Adams’s father didn’t settle for a written supply from the film-makers to meet with them to talk about her allegations. However they embrace a be aware on the finish of the documentary which says: “Nicola’s father maintains he was by no means violent in direction of Nicola or her mom. He says the allegations are false.” So how did she really feel when her dad abruptly popped up once more alongside her after she had received gold at London 2012? “It was a unusual feeling however I didn’t need to spoil the second. I needed all people to simply get pleasure from me profitable a gold medal and making historical past [as the first British woman to become an Olympic boxing champion]. However, yeah, it was odd. I simply didn’t need that second to be destroyed.”

She known as him a few months later. “I needed to communicate to my dad and confront him about what he did to me and my mum. I simply needed an apology so I may transfer previous it and possibly we may construct a relationship once more. He stated I was loopy and none of it ever occurred. I was like: ‘What?’ We haven’t spoken since. I was in full shock. However, even now, if he acquired in contact and apologised for what he’d completed then I’d forgive him.”

When requested to remark for a earlier Guardian interview with Adams in 2017, Harmless Adams confirmed he had refused to apologise to his daughter and ex-wife, as a result of he didn’t really feel he had something to apologise for. “The allegations made are fully false,” he stated. “I have by no means been violent in direction of my ex-wife or Nicola. That is simply a defamation of my good character.”

Adams says one other man was “fairly violent and aggressive as effectively, and it was on the level the place I was sleeping with a hammer under my bed – in case I needed to help my mum. I couldn’t perceive why, after all of the abuse and all the pieces we’d suffered with my dad, it was taking place once more. I got here again from faculty someday and this man was taking a great deal of furnishings out of the home. My mum was shouting and I acquired the hammer from under my bed and stated that he had to go away the home. I was going to use it. Fortunately he went with out me having to use the hammer.”

Within the movie she talks about throwing a brick by the again window of one other man’s automotive after he had been violent in direction of her mom. “It was a vicious cycle,” she says.

Adams feels no bitterness in direction of males regardless of her upsetting childhood. “I don’t choose all people from one particular person’s wrongdoing. If there’s something I may change it might have been to have remedy when I was a lot youthful. I solely had trauma remedy after 2016. It was a actual eye-opening expertise for me. I nonetheless communicate to a therapist now and it actually helps.”

She needed such positivity in the face of nice obstacles in boxing. Her first aggressive combat was on the age of 12 and it took 4 years earlier than her subsequent opponent could possibly be discovered. That was a signal of how uncommon it was for ladies to be allowed to field in the Nineties – at a time when girls had been banned from boxing professionally in Britain.

In 2003, aged 20, she received her first worldwide event in Hungary. She and Coulson “had to fund all our journeys. I was nervous however actually excited. I needed to see how I’d fare as a result of a number of the boxers had been European champions. I’d had about 10 fights and a few of them had had 60 fights. However I boxed 4 instances and received the gold medal. I was like: ‘Wow, that is the primary medal we’ve received as girls in a multination event.’ I couldn’t wait to go to extra nations and see what I may do.”

Nicola Adams
Adams says that in main boxing tournaments ‘we had to share someone else’s sweaty package once they’d simply come out of the ring. It was stunning.’ {Photograph}: Amazon Prime Video

Nothing modified. “It was actually irritating as a result of they’d dangle the carrot: ‘Go away and win medals at tournaments. Try this and also you’ll have extra funding.’ However about 10 of us women would get to a main event, just like the European Championships, on our personal. We had to share someone else’s sweaty package once they’d simply come out of the ring. It was stunning. You’d suppose we’d a minimum of have the ability to give us our personal package – particularly when the blokes had completely all the pieces: nutritionists, physios, docs.”

In 2008, Adams nonetheless had to pay her personal means to combat in the world championships in China. She couldn’t afford time to acclimatise. “I bear in mind being on the coach on the best way to the venue for the primary match and I had to drink two cans of vitality drink to keep awake,” she says. “I nonetheless managed to win a silver medal.”

By the point girls’s boxing was lastly allowed into the Olympics at London 2012, Adams was pushed and relentless. She received gold at her house Video games. “It was like: ‘Wow, you’ve made historical past.’ I simply didn’t realise how a lot my life had modified. Individuals had been arising to me, asking for images, and I was going to movie premieres and award exhibits. It was all so completely different.”

Adams efficiently defended her Olympic title in 2016 however her transition into skilled boxing was one other painful expertise. “I was shocked at how far behind skilled boxing was for ladies [when Adams turned pro in 2017]. There had been so many constructive modifications in newbie boxing which hadn’t occurred on the skilled facet. I needed to enhance girls’s boxing in the professionals as effectively.”

Nicola Adams with her London 2012 gold medal
Nicola Adams along with her London 2012 gold medal. {Photograph}: Tim Eire/PA

She had simply six fights, profitable her first 5 and changing into the WBO flyweight champion. Her last bout, towards Maria Salinas, ended in a draw on the Royal Albert Corridor in September 2019. “I had to lose over a stone in weight in 24 hours earlier than the weigh-in,” she remembers. “My nutritionist and coaches suggested me not to field and it was the toughest combat I’ve ever had. Within the first spherical my opponent by accident caught me along with her thumb in my eye and it tore my pupil in two locations. I spent the remainder of the combat seeing two folks in the ring whereas coping with the very fact I hadn’t eaten correctly for a few weeks.”

After docs suggested her that she risked going blind in that broken eye if she continued to field, Adams retired in November 2019. She is pleased that ladies’s boxing, in each the amateurs and the professionals, “is a completely completely different place now. It’s actually good to see. However girls’s boxing ought to be like MMA in the UFC the place girls get the very same pay, therapy and publicity as the boys. I need boxing to be in that very same area.”

The place is her “protected area” now she longer turns to the ring? “It’s with my household, with Ella [her partner] and with my canine. I have my therapist and my group round me. I simply love the area that I’m in. I have my appearing to deal with. I’m getting coaching on that and I at all times like to be taught one thing new so I can enhance. There are limitless potentialities for me to discover now. In boxing you will have to be very poker-faced and unemotional whereas, with appearing, I’m studying how to specific my feelings, from ache to happiness.”

Adams pauses when I ask what recommendation she would give to her youthful self when life was stuffed with trauma and ache? “I’d simply say: ‘Stick at what you’re doing. You’re doing rather well. I know instances are actually onerous proper now however you’re going to get by it and also you’re going to turn into a legend, a two-time Olympic champion, world champion as a skilled boxer. Simply don’t let issues get you too down.’”

Lioness – The Nicola Adams Story launches on Prime Video on 12 November

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