Olympic boxing hopeful Lauren Price believes her grandad Derek will be watching down on her in Tokyo next year after the man who introduced her to the sport died.
The 26-year-old made history for Wales in September by becoming world number one after the International Boxing Association’s rankings named her at the summit of the 75kg division.
But it’s also been a challenging year for Price personally as her grandad Derek, who raised her from the age of three with her nan Linda in Caerphilly, passed away recently.
Derek had encouraged her to take up kickboxing in the first place, setting her on a path which could end in Olympic gold in 2021, and Price paid tribute to the man she considered her dad.
“I had some bad news this week as my grandad passed away,” explained Price, whose success in the amateur ranks has included European Games and World Championship gold in 2019.
“I’ve been isolating myself in Sheffield and my grandad had been in hospital anyway, but as for my nan, I’ve just been FaceTiming her and keeping in touch like that.
“He’s the one who started me off at the age of eight, he was a massive impact on my life and he travelled all around the world with me kickboxing.
“Looking back even in my football days he’d be there shouting on the sidelines. I’m gutted that he didn’t get to see me in Tokyo but in my own heart and head I know he’ll be watching down on me.
“I’ve lived with them from the age of three days old, so all my life they’ve looked after me and brought me up, always supporting my sport as it has obviously cost thousands over the years.
“I call him my grandad but he was a father figure to me, he was like my dad.”
Price was at the European boxing qualifiers in March in London when the event was suspended after just three days of competition due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
Price continued to train in the aftermath but once it was confirmed the Tokyo Games would not be happening this year, she opted to take a break – a decision she feels has paid off.
“It’s been challenging at times but for me, I have taken a positive out of it,” said Price, who is due to fly out with the rest of the Team GB hopefuls to a training camp in the USA on Friday.
“At the time I was scared when the qualifiers were initially called off. I didn’t want to lose any fitness as I was in good shape so I was still training hard.
“I then got told that the Olympics were being postponed so I took my foot off the gas and thought to myself that everyone is in the same position, it’s not just me.
“It’s the whole world and my opponents are in the same position as me so I kind of slowed things down and thought to myself I need to work on the things I’m not so good at.
“I wanted to make sure I improved that way so in my head I tried to stay positive and turn the negatives into positives and go that way but at times it was really challenging.
“For motivation as an elite athlete when we are boxing all year, you kind of peak and then have time off but there were no talks of training camps, tournaments, so what are you training for?
“It was hard but now we’re towards the end of the year and we can go on training camps and it has boosted everyone - our motivation is back. I think it has done our bodies good to have rest.
“It's kind of refresh the brain as well to go again and it’s made us all a lot hungrier to go again and win. I can’t wait for the Olympics now we’ve had that extra year.”
Price also had her say on the lack of financial support for grassroots boxing after the sport was not included in the government's £300 million Winter Survival Package – a decision slammed by promoter Eddie Hearn.
Price added: “I suppose it’s like anything really, it goes to the professionals as that’s where all the money is but I think it’s quite wrong to rule the amateur boxers out. Hopefully it will get sorted.
“The clubs are really important. They are your grassroots, obviously once upon a time that’s where I started and that’s where it all comes from really.
“All these stars you see, the likes of AJ [Anthony Joshua], that’s how he started so the grassroots are important. It’s really important that something is done about that.”