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Watching re-runs of Muhammad Ali winning Olympic gold, Nicola Adams made up her mind that she wanted to become a boxer when she was a child.
But it wasn’t just Ali’s sporting prowess that impressed a young Adams growing up in Leeds.
“He did so many great things outside of the ring, as well as inside it, he’s such an inspiring person, someone I’ve always looked up to.”
As a result, Adams, the world’s first female Olympic and Commonwealth boxing champion, recognises the significant role athletes can play in reaching out to the younger generation. She has met hundreds of children and young people during visits to schools and community initiatives since London 2012.
“When I go into schools or sports clubs, it’s amazing to see the kids’ smiling faces when they get to actually talk to you in person.
“When I was younger, I would have loved the opportunity to meet one of my heroes, it can be so motivating.
“They have so many questions for me, they want to know what it was like to win the Olympics and the Commonwealths, how long I’ve been boxing, they want to feel the medals, and it’s great to see how interested they are.”
This week UK Sport announced that since London 2012 athletes on the National Lottery funded World Class Programme have spent over 10,000 days engaging children and young people through sport.
They have done a range of things, from supporting sport development programmes, to volunteering with charities, and mentoring young people in deprived communities or schools. Some athletes have also coached or mentored talented young athletes in local or academy clubs within their sports.
“The more athletes we can get out there inspiring people, the more kids we can send a positive message to. Sport is another avenue they could go down, they might not want to be a doctor, or work in an office, it shows them that there’s something out there for everyone,” said Adams.
As well as working with young people through school and club visits and hosting sports sessions, the 32-year-old has also been working with two charities that she feels passionate about.
“Us Girls supports teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into sport. At that age, there aren’t many girls getting involved with sport, so it’s great that I can help them.
“They get to try out loads of different sports; boxing, football, netball, which is really good because you don’t always know which sport will be right for you.”
Adams has also been to Rio, host city of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in a bid to make a difference.
“I did some work with Fight for Peace in Brazil. What they do out there is amazing, they train the children through sport, but they also give them support with education and career skills.
“I went to a college where you could tie in your sport with education and I think that’s a really good idea because you’re really focused on your sport, you don’t always think about what you’ll do next.
“If I can help motivate them that little bit more then that’s fantastic, it’s a great way for me to give back.”
Nicola Adams is one of 1,477 National Lottery supported athletes responsible for delivering over 10,000 inspiration days since London 2012, in a bid to inspire the next generation through sport.