British boxer Nicola Adams, the first athlete to win a gold medal in Olympic women’s boxing, announced her retirement Wednesday in an open letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“I’m immensely honoured to have represented our country – to win double Olympic gold medals and then the WBO championship belt is a dream come true,” Adams wrote. “But it’s not without taking its toll on my body, and aside from the expected aches and pains — I’ve been advised that any further impact to my eye would most likely lead to irreparable damage and permanent vision loss.”
Adams took up women’s boxing in an era in which opponents were hard to find. She was in her mid-20s by the time meaningful European and world competition emerged. By 2011, she was the top flyweight in Europe and a two-time world championship silver medalist.
In 2012, the first-ever Olympic competition, taking place in her home country, was stacked. Her semifinal opponent was Indian legend Mary Kom, who had won five world championships at a slightly lower weight class. Adams had beaten her at the previous world championship and did so again, winning a comfortable 11-6 decision under the points system used at the time. She then knocked down three-time world champion Ren Cancan of China in a dominant 16-7 win to take gold.
In 2016, she won her only world championship and then repeated as Olympic champion, beating Ren again in the semifinals and defeating France’s Sarah Ourahmoune in the final.
Her plaudits in her home country went well beyond the ring. In 2012, The Independent named her the most influential LGBT person in Britain. She was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2013 and elevated to OBE (Officer) in 2016.
She turned professional for a brief but successful career, winning her first five fights and claiming the interim WBO flyweight title before taking a draw in what would be her final fight in September against Mexico’s Maria Salinas.
“Hanging up my gloves was always going to (be) hard, but I have never felt luckier,” Adams wrote. “And I’m so immensely proud of how far the sport has come.”
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