European Taekwondo Championships: 'My path will be different' - Lauren Williams

'Nothing will ever be less than 100%'

Double European taekwondo champion Lauren Williams says she has learnt to work around years of injury problems as she aims for a spot at this summer's Olympic Games.

She will begin her final push for Tokyo selection at the European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

But the Welsh fighter accepts it may not be a smooth build-up to what would be her first Olympics.

"It seems like I'm always injured," said the 22-year-old.

"But on reflection I always have been and I probably always will be.

"Because of the intensity I fight at and the intensity I train at, nothing will ever be less than 100%. With that will come injuries."

"So it's overcoming it and realising my path is going to be different to everyone else's.

"If I can win a Games off a punch, no-one's ever done that!"

The breakthrough year for the then teenage Williams - who had been inspired to take up the sport after watching Jade Jones win gold at London 2012 - was 2018.

Williams followed up her second successive European title with a £54,000 win at that year's Grand Slam.

But even then she admits she had injury niggles which have dominated her training and fights since.

"Those competitions, those results [in 2018], they've all been off a weights session and being mentally ready," she continues.

"I've done this for eight years. I know all the kicks, I know all the techniques, I know I can go out there and physically do it.

"I've never trained 100%. I've never had that. So why am I chasing something so unrealistic?

"I've always put in a good performance off the back of a weights session. As long as I'm mentally there on the day, I'm quite capable of pulling a medal out."

Lauren Williams
Lauren Williams won gold at the European Taekwondo Championships in 2016 and 2018

Williams admits the pandemic has been "challenging" but it has also made her more grateful for what she has.

While gyms and training facilities across the country have been closed for much of the past year, she says she feels lucky to have access to GB Taekwondo's Manchester training base.

The past year has also helped her "mature a lot more and a lot faster". This, combined with her gratitude to be able to train, has led to her concentrating not on what she cannot do because of injury, but what she can do instead.

Williams is part of a 15-strong GB Taekwondo squad at the European Championships this week.

The -67kg fighter has qualified for a spot at Tokyo 2020 - now she just needs to make sure it is hers.

"To be part of this Games is going to be a massive part in history," Williams told BBC Sport Wales.

"The Games got cancelled years and years back but it's never been postponed.

"The stories that will come from these athletes and what they've been through to get to these Games, it's going to be the most inspiring Games ever.

"I think the next five years will be the most exciting of my life. Two big competitions [Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024] and the Worlds.

"This year there's a chance to be Olympic, World and European champion. And I want to be that."

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