Britain has a new Olympic taekwondo silver medallist. Lauren Williams may have lost to Croatia’s Matea Jelic 25-22 in the women's under-67kg final, but will still go home with a medal around her neck.
Williams edged a cagey first round 5-4, before the second round finished 10-10. The 22-year-old then powered ahead in the third and final round, but Jelic managed to catch up and take the lead in the last 10 seconds of the match.
On her way to the final, Williams defeated Malia Paseka of Tonga, Hedaya Wahba of Egypt and Ruth Gbagbi of Ivory Coast.
Here’s everything you need to know about Britain’s new Olympic hero.
Inspired by two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones
Before heading off to Tokyo, Williams told GiveMeSport Women she had been inspired by fellow Welsh athlete Jade Jones. The 28-year-old Jones crashed out in the opening round of the Games yesterday, but was a gold medallist at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
"Before I did taekwondo I was a kickboxer – I did that for 10 years," Williams explained. "When I went on holiday with my parents, we sat and watched the Olympics on TV. We were flicking through the channels to try and find a great British athlete to watch, and Jade happened to be on, and there was about 10 seconds left.
"She was winning at the time, and the points were getting higher and higher, and it got really exciting. And my dad turned to me and said ‘is this something you'd want to do?’"
A year later, Williams was accepted onto the British Taekwondo's Fighting Chance initiative, which fast-tracks young talent into the world of high-performance sport. Once graduated, Williams enjoyed a successful junior career, becoming junior world champion in 2014 and 2016.
Three-time European champion
As Williams progressed into her senior career, she continued her impressive performances on the mat. She first became European champion in 2016, before picking up gold again in 2018 and 2019. Williams fell short of gold at the European Championships this year, losing to Jelic, but she still managed to finish with silver.
Although Williams is making her Olympic debut this summer, she already has experience of the Games, travelling to Rio 2016 as a reserve.
Hopes to be an inspiration
After she was inspired by British teammate Jones, Williams now hopes to become a role model for future taekwondo stars.
"I go back to my hometown quite frequently and I go to my kickboxing club," she told GiveMeSport Women. "I see a lot of the kids and youngsters I used to teach, look up to me, and I’ve realised there are a generation of youngsters that aspire to be in this position.
"It always reminds me of that 12 year old me looking up to Jade, I didn't realise there were youngsters in that position looking up to me now, and it's really nice. I hope someday they'll be joining me in the academy and it will be a similar story."