Long before Lauren Price became an Olympic gold medallist, outclassing Li Qian of China in the women’s middleweight final in Tokyo, in order to fund her long-held dream of Olympic greatness she would spend her weekends driving taxis across Wales while training during the rest of the week. It was an enjoyable life at times, meeting so many people, taking the initiative in search of her goals and the stories she has to tell are priceless.
“It’s pretty crazy, really,” she says, laughing. “I had one woman strip off. She was steaming. I dropped her off and she took all her clothes off and I had to knock her husband out of bed. Didn’t really know what to do. I’ve had a few drunks in my car doing the ride from Cardiff to the Valleys, picking them up on a Friday and Saturday night.”
It was not until Price was able to train like a professional athlete, without any distractions, that her life was transformed. Price, who is now a National Lottery funded athlete, was announced on Wednesday as the National Lottery’s Olympian of the year. That she has clinched the fan-voted award after an Olympics filled with countless British breakout stories reflects a unique, triumphant path from a distinguished international football career to kickboxing, taekwondo and then finally boxing.
When Price considers how she will remember this defining year decades from now, her first thought is of the struggles that preceded her success. At the height of Covid, she used wheelie bins as squat racks and she diligently conducted her work amid swirling doubts. “It was hard at times thinking: ‘Are the Olympics going to happen? Because I’ve trained so hard all over the years for this moment [for it] to just to be taken away,’ as everyone else thought,” she says.
The consequence of such stress was reflected in the amount of tears across Tokyo throughout the games. Price, normally composed, was also emotional as she weaved through the media mixed zone after winning the gold medal. She was thinking of her grandfather, Derek, who along with her grandmother, Linda, took her in at the age of three and supported her all the way. In 2019, he passed away with dementia.
“My emotion of losing my granddad, that was pretty hard for me just because he’d been such a big part of my life,” she says. “I just wanted him there to see. But there’s one thing I take with me like, I just believe obviously he was looking down on me and stuff like that. So, yeah, it was great.”
The journey was particularly special since she shared it with Karriss Artingstall, her partner, who also left Tokyo with a medal after winning bronze in the featherweight division. Price beams at the mention of their shared glory, but she also wants people to focus on their work and achievements.
“It was crazy. We bought a house before the Olympics, but obviously it wasn’t out there because I didn’t want that to be about that situation,” she said. “I want us both to go on our own journeys, you know what I mean? But she’s such a big part of my life. We train together, we live together and we push each other along.
She adds: “We know each other inside out and to have someone on the same journey as you and be a partner training alongside you is pretty special.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30m each week for good causes including Olympic and Paralympic sport. Visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk or follow @LottoGoodCauses #NLAwards