Welsh taekwondo star Lauren Williams has outlined her plans to retain her European Championship title two years after earning a surprise gold in Switzerland.
The 19-year-old Newport taekwondo titan (main picture, right), now based in Manchester, has taken some big scalps in the last year despite her relative inexperience – claiming the 2017 World Taekwondo Grand Prix in London against reigning world champion Ruth Gbagbi.
Despite the pressure of being the reigning champion, the -67kg fighter says she is looking forward to the challenge of taking on the continent’s elite at the 23rd European Championships in Kazan from May 10-13.
“I am going out there to defend my European title, so I am really excited to go back out there,” said Williams.
“I think I have come a long way since the last one. I have progressed really well in the last two years and I am looking forward to seeing if the work I have put in has made me any better and hopefully I can retain my title.
“This time around it is a lot harder because there is that expectation behind it. I have medalled before and naturally people are going to expect me to medal again.
“I have not put pressure on myself to medal and all I can do is my give it my best efforts.”
The 2018 US Open champion believes much of her success comes from sparring with some of the world’s best fighters including the likes of Olympic medallists Jade Jones (above middle) and Bianca Walkden (above left).
And despite falling foul to several injuries since turning senior in 2016, Williams believes they have only made her a stronger athlete.
— Lauren Williams (@LaurenW_TKD) May 4, 2018
“I have had a bad run of injuries, but it is something that I have to deal with. We are in a combat sport, you have got to expect that to happen.
“You have to take them as it comes and see them as just a little step in the journey. Fingers crossed I will be ok for Tokyo.
“The training intensity that we bring every day is what keeps us going because that gold medal is always on our minds.
“We are always pressuring each other and we all want the same dream. It is easy if everyone is in it together.”
Image courtesy of GB Taekwondo via Twitter, with thanks.