Week 87 (30 May - 5 June 2015)
Humility is an endearing trait, especially so from an elite or highly-skilled athlete.
To hear a runner protest that they were “a bit rusty” when they’ve just blown everyone off the track or to listen to a footballer describe their complete dominance of the midfield as “just running around a lot” is humorous, as it so obviously contrasts with the sporting excellence we’ve just witnessed. The effect is to bring fans closer to the athlete, and that builds affability.
But there’s a limit. And it’s important that sport has a balance between the humble ones and those who shout a bit louder about how great they are.
Once in a while there’s an athlete who manages to play both sides of the narrative: the Beckham with the Bolt. Nicola Adams is that hybrid.
The smiling British boxer has a natural leaning to be humble, to play down her achievements. Yet she also understands that, as the first woman to ever win an Olympic boxing title, she has a responsibility to tell her story in full.
Writing a column on the BBC for the inaugural Women’s Sport Week, Adams wrote:
“I'm aware I'm a role model. The messages I receive are a constant reminder of that. But, in a way, I've always been a leader, always been the first to achieve things in the ring."
There’s a refreshing lack of sugar-coating to Adams’s story – allowing those who look up to her to get a clearer picture of what it takes to reach the pinnacle of a sport.
“It is difficult following a path no-one else has trodden. When I was younger, female boxers didn't receive any funding. I've been boxing internationally since 2001 and for a long time I was the one who would book the flights and pay for the hotels.
“We didn't have any support. During international tournaments we would often ask the Irish team if we could use their physiotherapists, and when I say 'we' I mean me and a couple of other girls. There weren't many of us.
“It was tough. It was mainly my mum who funded it all. She had to work damn hard to keep my dream alive and I owe her a lot.”
Adams’s inspiring story also extends beyond sporting boundaries and into public life, thanks to her willingness to talk openly about her sexuality.
“I receive lots of messages from people because of my sexuality. It's nice to think that just because I'm open about being bisexual, other girls feel they can be open about who they are too.
“They're not afraid and that's important. It's amazing to think I can have such an effect on people.”
Nicola Adams did not seek the attention that comes with being the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title – a scheduling decision combined with her talent thrust that upon her – but she’s always happy to tell you about herself and how she got to where she is.
Humility is endearing – but confidence is inspiring.
Photo: Baku 2015