FEW athletes have had an Olympic journey like Lauren Williams.
Everyone knows the route to becoming a successful professional athlete involves sacrifice but none have had it quite like Williams, who spent 18 months living in her family’s mobile home near Manchester just to be closer to Great Britain’s taekwondo team – all at the age of just 14.
Too young to stay in her own accommodation, Wales-born Williams left her dad and sister behind to live with her mum in the family caravan, the pair paying to use shocker blocks and living off microwave meals all in aid of the take-off of her taekwondo career.
Now 20, Williams knows what it’s like to tough it out, having recovered from a broken leg to win her first World Grand Slam in China in 2018– and the youngster reckons it’s these past experiences which have moulded her into the world’s fourth-ranked -67kg athlete she is today.
“We had a little touring caravan and cited it on a caravan site for 18 months,” she said. . “My mum had to give up her job to come and live with me while my dad and sister stayed at home in Wales. It was a big commitment from them.
“Transitioning into a new sport and joining the full-time programme straight away took a toll on my body quite early on and I suffered a lot of injuries.
“We train four-six hours a day, Monday to Friday, so it can be intense, but I suppose that’s what you’ve got to do to get there.
“But I think through it all I was able to come back hungrier. It’s obviously tough to deal with but ultimately, it’s shaped me into the athlete that I am.”
The word taekwondo in Great Britain is synonymous with another certain Welshwoman – Jade Jones.
The Bodelwyddan-born athlete, who won Olympic gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016, has long been setting the standard for upcoming female taekwondo stars like Williams.
Now the Welsh pair are training for Tokyo together, but that may not have happened if Williams hadn’t caught an accidental glimpse of taekwondo while on a family holiday in the caravan.
“My dad put the Olympics on the television while we were on holiday and taekwondo came on,” she added. “We watched it as Jade was from Great Britain.
“It was the last ten seconds of the fight and we were both really into it with it being a martial art. That fight properly caught my attention and that’s where it all begun.
“Now training with Jade, it’s incredible. Obviously, you can’t do better than that. You’re training with the best day in day out, always pushing each other and finding ways we can all improve together as a team. I think we are heading in the right direction.”
She may be currently ranked fourth but Williams had a disappointing end to 2019, missing out on a successive medal at the Grand Slam in China.
But as ever, she’s ready to give it all as she aims to follow in Jones’ footsteps and go for glory this summer in Tokyo.
“We’re going for gold, I’m not going for any other colour,” she said.
“It’s been a big dream of mine to be Olympic champion, so that’s what I’m going there to try and achieve. I was in need of a break, [after the Grand Slam] I needed to refresh and reset my mind ahead of the Olympics, I feel like I’ve had the appropriate time to do that so I’m back and I’m ready.”