With less than five months to go until the 2020 Olympic Games begin, taekwondo star Lauren Williams has her sights set firmly on winning a gold medal in Tokyo.
Williams, from Blackwood, secured a place on the plane to Japan after finishing among the top five in the World Taekwondo Olympic Rankings at the end of the qualification period.
The 21-year-old’s story has been well-documented after she moved to Manchester when she was 14 and lived in a caravan with her mother so she could be closer to Great Britain’s taekwondo team.
Williams has made many sacrifices to get to the position that she finds herself in today, and will now test herself on the biggest stage of all when she travels to the Japanese capital this summer.
Williams said: “Mum had to give up her job for 18 months and we didn’t see my dad or my sister for quite a while.
“But that’s the kind of commitment they were willing to make and financially it was very difficult for the family. They made it happen and it’s got me where I am today.
“The biggest thing for me is the chance to get an Olympic medal. It’s what I want, and I’ll do anything I can to get it.
Competition for places on the podium in Japan is, however, tense with Williams, who is among 1,500 National Lottery funded athletes, competing in the hotly-contested -67kg weight class.
But in terms of preparations for this summer’s event, she couldn’t be in a better place.
The former two-time world junior champion has been training with compatriot Jade Jones, who won gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016, and Bianca Walkden, who secured bronze in Rio.
It was Jones, from Denbighshire, who inspired Williams to make the transition from kickboxing to taekwondo after watching her competing in London on the television eight years ago.
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The training alongside Jones and Walkden, coupled with her kickboxing background, will stand her in good stead as she aims to achieve a much-sought after gold medal in the summer.
“Bringing that intensity [from kickboxing] into taekwondo really does benefit me,” she added.
“A lot of fighters are slow paced and very tactical. I’ve got a competitive edge – I just want to fight and I’m all about intensity.
“The more dominant nations are Asian countries, but the top ten fighters in my group are from all over the world. I have to be on it on the day.”