Image © Kelly Irvine
I come from an unconventional, freakishly large family who were all born, raised and live in Toxteth. In the house I grew up in I was the eldest of all the girls, but had two elder boy cousins. I adored these two older lads, they were my heroes. I was with them all the time - climbing trees, playing football, bmx-ing – and from that I gained a real love of sports.
The first time I watched the Olympics on TV I was 4. I was totally amazed and screamed for my mum to come and watch it with me. By the end of the programme I told her, with a matter of fact face "Mum, I'm going to be there".
Throughout primary school I wasn't really good academically, was a bit of a class clown but I excelled in PE. I was in every sports club the school offered (getting to County level for many), excelled in football, helped the teachers in lessons and coached others.
Then in secondary school my PE teacher would never let me be captain. When I asked why she said it was because of my conduct in other classes, where I wasn't setting a good example. That hurt more than any detention ever did, from then on I improved my behaviour in and around school. Soon after I became school captain and got trials and played for LFC girls.
Years later I got an England call up and an offer to go the USA to play soccer for a university. So off I went. My dreams of being the next Lionel Messi of women's football came to end with one bad tackle, which tore my ligament and ended my football career. I came home without finishing my degree. I was 20, with no money, so I decided to be ‘normal’ and get a job. Any job I had didn't last long because I wasn't motivated and I didn't want to be normal. Something had to change.
A year later, with my Forrest Gump leg brace off, I tried boxing and quickly fell in love with sport again. Quick successes meant within a year I was competing for the England team. I had my England top with Jonas on the back and I was happy with that. In 2009 it was announced that for the first time ever women’s boxing was going to be included in the London 2012 Olympic games. Great Britain had to make their first women's boxing team! After many intense trials and assessments I was selected as one of three from the British team to go to the Olympic qualifier in China.
Afro Supa® Sistas from the Afro Supa Hero exhibition
That knockout tournament was my one chance to make the Olympics. I fought 5 times in 6 days. On my 7th bout I knew that if France lost in the next ring and I won then I would qualify. The whole world hates England so when my name was announced the 400 strong crowd booed. After an awful start, I was level when my coach told me France had lost. I had two minutes to give my everything, my ultimate best, that's what I did. At the end I was exhausted. After an intense wait for the results, I won. I was thrilled, emotional, the coaches were crying. I had to give two hours of interviews, then the best feeling in the world was hugging my mum and hearing her say "you did it!" It took me 24 years but I had.
I was the first female boxer to compete in the Olympics, the first to win, with the loudest crowd participation noise of the whole games. The records will remain forever. Do I believe I'm a superhero? If that is a person who doesn't follow the crowd, always tries her best, never gives up and mostly believes in themselves then yes I am!"
Who is your super hero or role model? Let us know – we might feature them in a future blog!