With the Tokyo Olympics right around the corner, Natasha Jonas looks back on her appearance at the 2012 Games in London, where she became the first ever British female boxer to compete at the Olympics.
Can you describe what your Olympic Journey was like, and how did you feel after you were picked?
Jonas: “It’s hard to put into words what the Olympic journey was like. Nothing else to compares to it. There were so many tournaments that we went to away from home, and 99% of the world seem to hate Great Britain or England, so you’re always getting booed!
“To go to the Olympics and have 90% of the crowd cheer for you, you’re not used to it. In terms of qualifying, I was competing against Chantelle Cameron, Amanda Coulson and Ruth Raper, trying to be the one person selected to go to the one qualifier.
“From 2009 to May 2012 you’re fighting to go to the qualifier, so that was a competition in itself. Rob McCracken selected me, and that was a big relief, but then the real work had to begin.
“I had to go go to the one qualifier we had in China, and they said before we got there that whoever makes it to the quarters will qualify. When we got there they said it had changed and you had to finish in the top three in Europe to qualify.
“I knew I was top eight in the world, but I didn’t know if I was top three in Europe, as there were great fighters like Katie Taylor among others. My weight division was a tough division, so to go there and qualify was really special.
“My parents came over to China to watch, so to celebrate with them was amazing, and then all my family was waiting at Manchester Airport when I got back, so to celebrate with them and know you was an Olympian was brilliant.”
What were the preparations you made before the competition?
Jonas: “I just continuously worked on my strengths and weaknesses to try and get better. By that time I’d won a bronze in the World Championships to qualify for the Olympics, so I knew and finally started believing how good I was because I qualified outright to be there.
“Everyone that was there was so good. The whole team was incredible, and it was our most successful Olympic boxing team ever. We were the first ever female boxing team going, and everybody was training towards the same goal.
“We all wanted to medal and put on a good performance when we were there, so everyone was dragging each other through each session and that was brilliant.”
What were some of your memorable experiences at the Olympic Village?
Jonas: “It was special the first time we walked into the Olympic Village and were shown where everything was. We got to our room, and then the next morning we got the lift to go downstairs and Chris Hoy was in the lift. He was a big star at the time, and he just said ‘morning Tasha’ to me, so that felt dead surreal.
“There were other times when we saw Usain Bolt at breakfast, and I was also standing next to Kobe Bryant and Lebron James at the opening ceremony.
“Another mad experience was when I was in the ice bath and Princess Anne walked in. I didn’t want to get out half naked in front of her, so I stayed in there for as long as I could. I lasted about five minutes and had to get out, so I jumped out and said ‘sorry ma’am!’ I didn’t know how to address her!”
What advice can you give to the Olympians traveling to Tokyo this week?
Jonas: “It’s so easy as an athlete to stay focused on the result. That’s what you should be doing, but in doing that, sometimes you don’t get the experience or are able to appreciate it being there and what it takes to get there. Not everybody gets that close.
“I would recommend doing a video diary and recording things, even you speaking to yourself. When you come away from the Olympics and look back, you will always remember how it felt.
“As annoying as it is to do videos talking to yourself, when I look back at mine now, those are some of the best memories that I’ve got of it.”
Anything you learned and gained from the Olympics?
Jonas: “Personally I believe I got beat by the only person that could have beat me, and I can live with myself every day because of that. I gave it everything at the time, and if you work hard and try your best, nobody can ask for better than your best.
“If you give that, you can walk away with your held held high and be proud, no matter what happens.”