W.As a fan following the 2012 Olympics, Nikita Parris had her eye on the debut of Team GB’s women’s soccer team. The other focused on the boxing ring. Why? Because it was there that her sister Natasha Jonas carved her own little piece of history and became the first British female boxer to take part in the Olympic Games.
Nine years later, Parris is following a path her sister may have not expected when plans for a women’s team for Team GB for Rio 2016 fell apart. Last week the striker from England and Lyon joined the squad for the Tokyo Games.
“It’s a tremendous moment,” says Parris. “To be selected for every major tournament is a great achievement, but Team GB is special as four nations join an 18-person team.
“It’s not an easy team to join. it’s a Dream. I saw it in 2012, I saw it in 2016 and now I can be a part of it in 2021.
“To see my sister on Team GB and then be accepted into Team GB is enormous. It’s a really nice experience for us as sisters, us as a family. She really made a legacy when she went to the Olympics in 2012. It’s huge and she’s a real inspiration.
“At 36, she still competes in professional boxing. She is in great shape and is doing really well. “
In 2012, Team GB suffered a 2-0 defeat in the quarter-finals against Canada, and Jonas was beaten in the easy quarter-finals by the eventual gold medalist Katie Taylor from Ireland.
Now Parris is part of a Team GB group that includes more women than men for the first time. Football is about building on the foundations of the 2012 pioneers. Parris believes that the fact that 16 of the players have experience of major international competitions and that so many of the squads play together for England or at club level will help. Only Lauren Hemp and Sophie Ingle did not reach a grand finale.
Nikita Parris celebrates after scoring England at the 2019 World Cup. Millie Bright (No. 6) and Steph Houghton (No. 5) are also on the Team GB roster. Photo: Hannah Peters / Fifa via Getty Images
“We want the gold and 2012 never delivered,” says Parris. “Our experiences and previous tournaments can really help us. This is a new team with new faces so we have to get together very quickly, but the players who come into the roster and the players who have already been selected [in 2012], have a lot of experience and that is the most important thing. So when crucial moments come, we hope our experience prevails to move on. “
Parris played a more central role for Lyon when Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg was dismissed due to an ACL injury. In international use with England, however, it is used in a broader position.
“I don’t know where to play,” she says. “I’ll make sure I’m in the best shape to play anywhere on the field.
“Playing in a starting XI and a Team GB jersey will be a great achievement for all of us and we will all fight for positions. It will not be easy to get into the starting XI just as it was not easy to be selected for the squad. “