When Nikita Parris watched the 2012 Olympics as a fan, she had one eye on the debut of the Team GB women’s football team. The other was focused on the boxing ring. Why? Because there her sister Natasha Jonas was carving out her own little piece of history, becoming the first British female boxer to compete at an Olympic Games.
Nine years later Parris is following a road taken by her sister that perhaps she would not have expected when plans for a Team GB women’s football team for Rio 2016 fell apart. Last week the England and Lyon forward was named in the squad for the Tokyo Games.
“It’s a massive moment,” Parris says. “To be selected for any major tournament is a great achievement, maar Team GB is special because it is four nations getting picked into a team of 18.
“It’s not an easy team to be picked into; it’s a dream. By 2012 I watched it, in 2016 I also watched it, and now I can be a part of it in 2021.
“To watch my sister in Team GB, and then to be selected into Team GB, is massive. It’s a really nice experience for us as sisters, us as family. She really created a legacy by going to the Olympics in 2012. It’s massive and she’s a real inspiration.
“At 36 years old she’s still competing in pro boxing. She’s in great shape and really doing well.”
Nou, Parris is part of a Team GB group set to contain more women than men for the first time. In football the job is to build on foundations laid by the 2012 pioneers. Parris believes the fact that 16 of the players have experience of major international competitions, and that so many of the squad play together for England or at club level, will help. Only Lauren Hemp and Sophie Ingle have not been to a major finals.
“We want the gold and 2012 never delivered that,” Parris says. “Our experiences and previous tournaments can really help push us forward. This is a new team with new faces so we have to gel together really quickly, but the players coming into the squad, and the players who have already been selected in it [in 2012], have got a lot of experience and that’s the most important thing. So when crucial moments come, we hope our experience does take over to push on.”
Parris played a more central role for Lyon when the Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg was ruled out with an ACL injury but she is used in a wider position when on international duty with England.
“I don’t know where I’m expected to play," sy sê. “I’ll make sure I’m in the best shape to play anywhere across the pitch.
“To be playing in a starting XI and a Team GB shirt is going to be a great achievement for all of us and we’re all going to be competing for positions. It is not going to be easy to be in the starting XI, like it wasn’t easy to be selected for the squad.”