With back-to-back Grand Prix titles and a successful defence of her world title, it’s safe to say Bianca Walkden is living up to her ‘Queen B’ nickname this season.
To an outsider, it might seem like the heavyweight fighter is effortlessly sweeping aside those before her, including becoming the first British taekwondo fighter to win back-to-back World Championship golds, in June.
But behind the scenes, Liverpudlian Walkden is relentless in her bid to keep her winning reign going, putting in the hours in training to stay ahead of the rest in her category.
“I saw a quote that I put on social media which says ‘kill yourself in training so you don’t die fighting’,” said the 26-year-old, ahead of this weekend’s World Taekwondo Grand Prix at the Copper Box Arena in London.
“It’s a great motto and something to think about day in, day out. To be the best, you have to keep pushing yourself.
“I’ve been training like an absolute psycho in the build-up to London.
“We have the best of the best competing and for it to be in the UK in front of my family and friends is massive. I just hope I can get out there and win.
“Hopefully I can keep winning. I am not sure if anyone has gone the whole season unbeaten at Grand Prix level so hopefully I can be the first to do that.
“I would say my recent run comes down to my mental strength and the fact of knowing what I want to do in the ring. I prepare for each fight and I go in there knowing what I’m capable of.”
Unlike close friend and teammate Jade Jones, Walkden will appear in London having not experienced the atmosphere of a home Games in 2012.
At the time, she was recovering from the first of two major knee operations but she returned stronger four years later to take bronze at Rio 2016.
Despite a medal on her Olympic Games debut, there were mixed emotions for the Brit after she missed out on the chance to fight for the title following a golden-point defeat to Zheng Shuyin in the +67kg semi-finals.
She hardly took a break post-Games, already determined to start working on the path to Tokyo 2020 and Olympic gold.
And it’s been so far so good, defending her +73kg world crown in June before winning a maiden Grand Prix title in Moscow in August, followed by a similar success in Morocco a month later.
That puts her down as one of the favourites at this weekend’s three-day competition with both Jones (-57kg) and Walkden (+67kg) in action in the capital on Saturday night.
It’s all set up to be a special night with Walkden excited about the chance to strut her stuff on home soil.
“We don’t mind being in the spotlight. Both Jade and I relish it,” she added. “We want to put on a show for those watching and the cameras. We will die training to make sure we look good out there, showing what we can do.
“I came straight back in October and November. I did not get the colour medal in Rio that I wanted to and that keeps driving me on. There is that desire in me to keep fighting until I can tick that off my list.
“I missed out on London but I know how special it was so if it can come close to that it will be great.”
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