Two-time Taekwondo World Champion and Olympic medallist Bianca Walkden joined Bupa UK CEO David Hynam for the official opening of Bupa’s new office in Salford Quays, Manchester, last month. Here Bianca talks to Bupa about what motivates her, why she is passionate about Bupa’s ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ pledge, and her connection to Manchester.
With there being much focus on mental toughness in sports such as Taekwondo, how do you deal with the pressure of competing?
Mental health is very important so I regularly visit a psychologist. It’s the norm for me and makes me a better athlete and person. You have to train mentally as well as physically, and only then can your real strength come through.
How do you deal with the highs and lows of competing?
It becomes a part of the job. It all becomes real with success, but to maintain it is the hard part. It’s harder to stay there than it is to get there once. I love a challenge though. The lows however, come all the time, but they make you stronger. Getting through them and coming out the other side is what makes you a champion. One of my lowest points came just before the 2012 Olympics in London. I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee, which put an end to my dream of competing. I was heartbroken. It was what I’d dreamed of as a kid so I found it hard to get over it. The support I received was what got me through, and the determination that I wasn’t going to let it stop me. When it happened again and I thought I was going to miss Rio, I just accepted it. I realised there was nothing I could do about it, so I took it as more time to prepare so I can achieve what I set out to. That second injury really changed me as a person and made me who I am today. Success means more when it’s been a hard journey. No one’s journey is easy, but when you get there it’s worth it.
What motivates you?
Winning and leaving a legacy. I don’t want to be a one hit wonder; I want to fulfil my desire to win everything. No matter what you’ve been through, I believe you can still achieve what you want to.
You were at Bupa Place for the launch of Bupa’s ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ pledge reinforcing our commitment to inclusion and diversity, what does this commitment mean to you?
It’s something that I feel very passionate about so it’s great to not only see Bupa celebrating diversity, but also welcoming other businesses to do so. I truly believe it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone should be treated the same. In sport, no one is ever denied respect. Women are as strong as men, and are really breaking down the barriers and coming through, especially in taekwondo. I don’t think you should ever be put off by stereotypes such as this is a ‘male sport’. You can do anything you want to. My boyfriend is also in taekwondo and he will train with a woman in exactly the same way he would a male competitor, as he respects all competitors no matter who they are.
How do you champion women in combat sport?
I sometimes host seminars for children so they can see it’s possible to breakdown stereotypes in sport and you should never let them affect you. I want them to see they can do anything they want to.
What is your favourite thing about Manchester?
Manchester is such a special place for me as I have lived here since the age of 15, and trained here for 11 years. My favourite thing about Manchester has to be that it’s very much a place where anything’s possible, a place where you can create your own dream and live it. Bupa Place is an amazing addition to the city. I love the look and feel of the building – it’s real and not formal – while the Everyone’s Welcome pledge is truly fitting.