Head of Sport Rebecca Johnson interviews Nesta Baxter, bronze medallist for Team GB at the Kickboxing World Championships about all things martial arts.
Rebecca Johnson: Okay so first question, what got you into kickboxing? Where did you start with it?
Nesta Baxter: I started when I was four, so I’ve been doing it forever! My mum got me into it so she took me to a parent-kids class, so I did it a lot of the time with my mum. Then she got really involved in it and I grew up with the sport, I did do a lot of other sports when I was little but it was kickboxing that really stuck. I really enjoyed it and doing it with my mum. I started competing and really started to enjoy it and carry on.
RJ: When did you really start competing, when did you really know that you could take this to the next level?
NB: So I did a couple of competitions when I was a little kid, so when I was like 8, then I stopped for a little bit and carried on training. The when I was 12 I started fighting properly, then when I was 13 I did my first national competition and then straightaway from there I just kept going up and up.
RJ: Coming to university, was it in the back of your mind that you had your kickboxing career to focus on? How do you balance kickboxing and university work?
NB: Coming to university was a big thing because I moved away from my main kickboxing club and up here there aren’t as many kickboxing clubs, so I was a little bit concerned about that. But I’ve been well-structured with keeping on top of it. I’ve joined the [university] boxing club, and I’m a big part of the boxing club up here as well. That’s really helped because it’s a really nice team as well, and they help with pushing through training, so it improves one aspect of my kickboxing. Then the other half I kind of do by myself, so it’s a lot of self-training as well. The uni have helped a lot with that as well. In terms of balancing studies, it’s important to just try and concentrate on actually doing the studying and then all of the kickboxing comes second!
RJ: How many hours a week would you say that you put into both the boxing and the kickboxing?
NB: Erm… that’s a question! (Laughing) I don’t know to be honest, I train twice a day, but it’s every day at least once and then twice a day where I can fit it in. I don’t know, I could try and think of a number but I’m not going to think of one, it’s probably sixteen?
RJ: (Laughing) That’s fair! So obviously talking about your bronze medal, what was the process of getting called up to Team GB like?
NB: It was amazing. So, since I did my first national competition, I actually won it and that kind of gave me a spot onto the GB team as a Junior. And I maintained that national title all the way through until I became an adult last year, so I moved up to seniors. I continued on the GB team as a junior, it was kind of just a given because I’d done it so long on the juniors. Then last year, obviously I moved up to senior category and there’s a bit more pressure on you, because you’re fighting against proper adults, and I wasn’t really expecting to do that well. Then I got the call up to the GB team and attended GB squad trainings and then I was selected from there to represent them at the World Championships, which was amazing. And just to have that experience in the first year I could have done it was really cool. Then I went to the World Championships in Bosnia, it was in Sarajevo, it was amazing. There were so many countries there, it was incredible. It ran throughout a week, so we started fighting on the Tuesday, and I fought on Tuesday, I had the Wednesday off, then fought on Thursday and Friday. It was amazing.
RJ: What was the atmosphere like? Especially being away from home, and meeting all the different countries?
NB: It was a really good atmosphere actually, it was quite a big stadium and it was always full which made a difference. We had quite a small GB team go out because they split the Championships into certain divisions in Bosnia and the other half were at a later point in Turkey. So we had quite a small GB team, but for the few of us, they made quite a big atmosphere, I always heard them when I was fighting which was just always nice.
RJ: That’s cool, and again, parents and family, were they there supporting you?
NB: They’re always a big part, my mum and dad are both heavily involved in kickboxing now that I was part of the club back home, so it’s just a family thing- it’s like an extra member of the family is kickboxing! So yeah, they were there with me and supporting me on the way, so that was really nice.
RJ: How did it feel, winning that medal?
NB: I really wasn’t expecting to win a medal. When I beat my first opponent, I thought, “this is amazing, I’m through to the quarter-finals!” I came up against one of the top Italians, there was kind of a lot of pressure on me to do it. I beat her when she came to Bristol Open a couple of years back, and I beat her there but all the other times I thought, “oh, she’s beaten me.” I knew that I could do it if I gave it everything, and yeah, I went up there and gave it everything and got through to the semi-finals, so I won the bronze medal. In the semis I was two points away from winning, and my opponent went on to win the World Title. So I couldn’t really ask for more, especially in my first year.
RJ: Oh yeah, that’s an absolutely fantastic achievement. How’s it been coming back from that and sinking back into university life?
NB: (Chuckles) Yeah I came straight back into uni, I landed on the Sunday night and then got a train straight back here and had a nine o’clock on the Monday morning. So, yeah, no rest! But settling back in again is like a normal routine now.
RJ: When’s your next big event, what’s next for you on the agenda?
NB: I have BUCS for boxing [WILL HAVE HAPPENED AT THIS POINT-FIND OUT RESULT] then it goes so much in the next couple of weeks for kickboxing. I’m doing the national championships in two weeks’ time [CHECK DATES] and that’s in Nottingham. Then I’m over to Ireland for the Irish Open, which is the biggest Open competition and that’s in Dublin, then two weeks after that I’m going to the Dutch Open and that’s in Amsterdam. Then hopefully again go for the GB team again this year.
Last modified: 13th February 2020