Walkden: Housemate Jones is my rock

Bianca Walkden knows having a fellow world number one for a housemate and a pop-up gym to train in gives a perfect platform for taekwondo glory in Tokyo.

Walkden lives with best friend and reigning 57kg Olympic champion Jade Jones, the pair becoming a viral hit for an ingenious workout space whipped up in their garage in Manchester.

The 28-year-old has been gunning for +67kg Olympic gold ever since she claimed bronze at Rio 2016 and having Jones by her side is helping propel her towards next year’s rearranged Games.

“Jade and I have been close no matter what and we've lived together since 2010,” said Walkden, speaking on behalf of The Official Estate Agent of Team GB Purplebricks. “We’re together now, at one of the darkest times the world has ever seen, and trying to keep the positivity of training towards the Olympics going.

“It's more vital than ever that we have each other, to still be able to push one another. We are very optimistic and I don't think I could have done it without her.

“Jade has a determination to always want to be the best. She’s won Olympic gold before and still goes out to try and be the best with every kick, an attitude which has a big effect on me.

“She’s showing me that it is possible. I eat, live, train with her every day and I’m around the possibility of becoming an Olympic champion, it’s a big confidence boost for me.

"As a fighter, confidence is key. You never saw Muhammad Ali or Conor McGregor coming out not believing in themselves.

"It's a massive part of fighting, to stand there, stand tall, be proud and believe in what you can do. You've got to talk the talk and walk the walk a little bit." The Liverpudlian will remain one of the firm favourites for gold in Tokyo having been crowned world champion for the third time on home soil in Manchester last summer. The cut and thrust of competition is on hold for now with the Olympic Games postponed until July 2021. Walkden’s attention turned instead to producing the perfect home environment in which to train. And what a job she has done. Her garage has transformed into a top-notch taekwondo facility with mats lining the floor where boxes used to lie, borrowing equipment from the National Taekwondo Centre.  The two-time European champion has become a social media sensation and live Instagram broadcasts of her sessions with Jones draw big audiences as Britain strives to keep moving. Walkden says the intensity of her training at home is close to peak level and admits she's far from a stranger to working out in a garage.

"Our sessions in the garage aren't far off what we’d get at the National Centre, about 60 or 70% of the intensity,” said Walkden.

“Our coaches normally would push us a bit more and we’d go back again and do two or three repetitions. But we all train together anyway and we do push each other.

“There have been a few funny moments in the garage, we had the kicking the ball into the washing machine challenge which took me about 1,000 attempts.

“One of the reasons we got the idea was because our former coach Paul Green, who coached me in Rio, had his garage done out and we did a few sessions at his place before the Olympics. It's business as usual really!"

Walkden’s ingenuity knows no bounds, and she revealed her efforts to pass the time in lockdown have stretched to learning another language.

"I have some Italian heritage and I own a pizza restaurant in Liverpool, so I’ve decided to start learning a bit of Italian," she said.

"I’ve got an app and I do 20 minutes a day to learn some phrases. I feel like I should know a little bit more than I do. I can just about count up to ten now!”

Sportsbeat 2020