Born in Leeds, Qais Ashfaq is a boxer and competed at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games, winning a gold medal in his weight class. Qais then went on to win the bantamweight class at the 2012 GB Amateur Boxing Championships. He has since competed in the men's bantamweight division at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he won silver, and at the very first 2015 European Games where he won bronze.
Qais will be representing Team GB in the boxing at this summer's Olympic Games in Rio. Ahead of the Games, Qais tells us how he first got into the sport, how he's preparing for Rio and what his hopes for the Games are.
How did you first get started in competitive sport?
I was always very active when I was at school, I used to play a lot of sport. The main reason that I started boxing was because my cousin used to box and my uncle (his dad) saw that I was interested and took me to the gym when I’d just turned 9. The first gym I went to was Bateson’s ABC, I loved it. When I first started going it was just for fun, I didn’t realised that I had a talent until I first started sparring. My first fight was when I was 11 and I won gold at the School Boys when I was 12. I first joined the GB Boxing squad when I was 17-years old, I’ve now been on the World Class Programme for 6 years.
What are your ambitions for Rio?
To win the gold medal! Anywhere I go I always aim for that top spot to win the gold medal. I know that I am good enough and can do enough to win it.
Who are your biggest support networks for achieving your ambitions – coaches, family, friends etc?
I’m really lucky, everyone around me has always been so supportive. My family have always been there, they’ve always been to watch my fights. My Dad and my brother have always been there, they always watch me at all of my tournaments, even those abroad. My friends have always supported me and come along to support me in tournaments. The GB coaches have always been there, encouraging me when training in the gym and supporting me at tournaments.
What does your pre Rio 2016 training plan look like? What type of training are you doing and how intense is it?
It’s very busy. I’m going to Romania to compete at the Golden Belt next week, hopefully I’ll win the gold medal. We’ve also got a multination training camp coming up in Sheffield as well. I’m currently training three times a day Monday to Friday. I also keep up my running on weekends to help keep my fitness up.
What does your meal plan look like at the moment?
Very small and very healthy. There’s lots of protein, carbohydrates and a bit of fat in there. Because we’re training three times a day we still need fat to help keep us going. I’m currently eating 4 – 5 small meals each day.
Who is your Olympic role model and why?
I actually have two. Muhammad Ali because he won a gold medal at the Olympics, he was the first person I really looked up to within the sport. He was the first person that I always wanted to be like. Amir Khan because he’s one of my greater memories from when I first started boxing, I remember walking into the gym when I was about 12 and he’d just qualified for the Olympics. My coach turned to me and said if he can do it, then you can do it. Plus we both come from the same sort of background.