Leeds-born flyweight boxer Nicola Adams, OBE, is a double Olympic gold medalist, reigning European and World champion and the only female boxer in the history of the sport to win every major title available to her.
She also became the first British boxer of any gender to successfully defend her title in 92 years when she won gold in Rio in 2016.
But the path to success hasn’t been straightforward for Adams, who experienced her share of disappointment and discrimination in her sport, brushing away rude comments about how women didn’t belong in boxing, waiting for four years to find an opponent she could fight and being sidelined with a broken bone in her back for months, just prior to women’s boxing finally being declared an official Olympic sport in 2009.
Adams has since decided to turn pro with the help of Frank Warren, a British promoter who spoke out vehemently against the idea of female boxing – until seeing Adams in the ring changed his world views.
While it’s her performance in the ring and impressive athleticism that defines her, she’s also been open about her bisexuality and was the first openly LGBT person to win an Olympic boxing gold medal. She’s fronted campaigns about body confidence for E45 and works as an ambassador for the charity Fight for Peace, which helps train young people from disadvantaged communities in boxing and martial arts.
Also, Nicola Adams has the kind of infectious enthusiasm and upbeat personality that can’t fail to inspire: thousands of girls credit her as the reason they picked up boxing gloves and tried out something new. The next generation of female amateur boxers (Ebonie Jones, Lauren Price) say they would never have achieved what they have professionally without the path Adams paved.
Next stop for Adams? World domination – and a Vegas match at some point in the not-too-distant future. Until then, here are some of our favourite Nicola Adams moments over the years that make us want to be her sister, not just her fan.
When she won her first Olympic gold medal
Adams made history at the London 2012 Olympics as the first female boxer to win an Olympic gold medal – kind of the most enormous deal ever. Her response to reporters? "I think I just want to go to Nando's," she told them after her win.
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She’s also always been vocal about how important being a role model is for her.
“Knowing that young girls might be inspired to take up the sport is as good as winning this medal," she told reporters after bagging the gold medal.
When she chatted to MAKERS about her career
This video will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and you may even find yourself shedding a tear: Adams talks about the obstacles in her path, her road to becoming a champion and what’s next for her, with a glint in her eye and a smile on her face.
“I’m fighting for more than just myself and a gold medal. I’m fighting for all the girls that come after me so they don’t have to fight to break down doors,” she says.
When she decided she’d win another Olympic gold – and made it happen
Determination is Nicola Adams’ driving force. As a child, she told her mother that she’d win an Olympic gold in boxing – before boxing was even an Olympic sport.
"How cool would it to be to win two Olympic gold medals? It's never been done in our sport before, so I am going to go for it,” she told The Guardian – right after making history for winning that first gold medal.
Who doubted her? Four years later, she did it.
Because she was always going to make it one way or another
Adams was always going to be a star. Fun fact: Before she made it as a sportswoman, she worked as an extra in TV shows like Coronation Street and Waterloo Road.
She has to deal with the same heartbreak as the rest of us
Nicola Adams was engaged to fellow female boxer Marlen Esparza, who broke up with her – and then swiftly announced her engagement to a personal trainer. Way harsh. But Nicola picked herself up, dusted herself off and has found love again with her girlfriend of a year, Ella Baig, a 21-year-old beauty blogger and hair stylist from Leeds. They both post tons of #couplesgoals pics and videos of them laughing and having adventures together: travelling, kayaking, enjoying life. They also have two dogs together, Pomeranian, Bailey Pom, and American bulldog, Brooklyn. Swoon.
When she appeared on Celebrity Bake Off for charity – having never baked before
If you’re looking for a role model who isn’t afraid to get out of her comfort zone, then Nicola Adams ticks that box, too: Adams is truly fearless, in or out of the ring. She appeared on Celebrity Bake Off in April 2019 and baked her first-ever cake to help raise money for Stand Up to Cancer – she also made a vanilla and custard flavoured boxing-inspired biscuit (with shoes and gloves, of course).
“This was the most out of my comfort zone thing I’ve ever done but it was also so much fun, I’ve never laughed so much in my life,” she tweeted after the experience.
Because she really is always smiling
As Adams herself puts it: “Nothing ever stops me smiling, apart from getting beat in the ring.”