Nicola Adams is one of Britain’s best hopes of a gold medal at the European championships in Rotterdam. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA
Rotterdam is the destination for some of Britain’s finest female fighting talent this week when six of the country’s top boxers will compete in the Netherlands for the European championships.
The tournament, which starts on Monday, is the biggest event of the year for the country’s leading fighters and serves as a crucial benchmark with the Olympic Games on the horizon. Five of the women selected are members of Great Britain’s Olympic training squad.
Leading the contingent is the flyweight Nicola Adams, twice a world championship silver medallist, who is touted as one of the country’s best hopes for a medal at London 2012, when women’s boxing will make its debut on the Olympic programme. The 28-year-old won gold in Katowice earlier this year at June’s European Union championships, beating the home favourite Karolina Michalczuk, a double world champion, and Adams is expected to follow that up with gold in Rotterdam. Given that flyweight is one of the three female categories to be contested at next summer’s Olympics, she will be carrying a lot of expectation but is showing supreme confidence.
“I’ve improved massively,” she says. “My technique’s got better, I’ve got quicker, sharper, stronger. Everything is going the way it should be and I’m expecting to be even better by the time the Olympics come round. I’m definitely hoping to get that gold medal. All my coaches are really confident I can do it and that gives me the belief that I can as well.”
The other Olympic weight classes, lightweight and middleweight, will be filled at the Europeans by Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall. Cameron has enjoyed rapid success since making the transition from kickboxing two years ago, with the 20-year-old from Northampton picking up a bronze medal at this summer’s European Union championships.
Standing in her way is Katie Taylor from Ireland, a three-times world lightweight champion who beat Cameron at the semi-final stage in Poland. Cameron, however, insists she will not be intimidated. “I learned so much from boxing her,” she says. “She’s a real inspiration to me when I’m outside the ring but when I’m in there with her I know I have to beat her.”
Marshall is another fighter with a great chance of bringing home a medal. A tall and rangy boxer, she has earned the nickname “Silent Assassin” within the Team GB camp because of her quiet and reserved nature. She won a silver medal at last year’s world championships as a welterweight, and was named the Amateur Boxing Association of England’s female boxer of the year. “I’m confident of coming home with a medal round my neck,” she says. “All the girls are going for gold and although I’d be happy with anything, I’d be over the moon if I could win the tournament.”
Natasha Jonas, a lightweight from Liverpool, is also going to Holland full of confidence having won gold at June’s European Union championships. One of the most natural athletes on the squad, Jonas was a promising footballer in her teens. A spell at Liverpool Ladies led to England Under-18 trials and a football scholarship in the United States, although it was in the solo art of boxing that Jonas really found her sporting home.
A natural lightweight, Jonas has bulked up by around half a stone to campaign at a higher weight class during the Europeans, with Chantelle Cameron chosen to go to this tournament in the Olympic weight division â€“ whether this affects the selection for next summer’s Games remains to be seen.
“Of course there is competition for the Olympic spot,” Jonas says. “Only one of us will go in my weight category to the Olympics and Chantelle and Amanda [Coulson] will be fighting hard for the place as well.”
Nina Smith is the final member of the Olympic squad selected for Rotterdam. The Essex bantamweight threw her first punch during a boxercise class at her local gym four years ago, and has since been fast-tracked. The featherweight Lisa Whitehead, the only Briton at the championships not part of the Olympic squad, completes the six-strong team for Rotterdam.