Lucy Payne: British Muay Thai champion targets Olympic medal

Lucy Payne
Lucy Payne has won 22 and lost six of her professional Muay Thai fights

"If she competed in the Olympics today, I can guarantee she would win a medal."

A big claim from Penzance-based coach Nathan Kitchen, but perhaps one that is not as wild as it appears, for the athlete in question is Lucy Payne.

The 24-year-old from Cornwall is the reigning WBC featherweight champion at Muay Thai - a sport that has just been given Olympic recognition.

It means in 2024, she and the best of her fellow fighters could be representing Team GB at the Olympics.

Kitchen knows what he is talking about. He has coached five fighters to world titles from his base at the Touchgloves Gym in Penzance.

"It's a very devastating sport, you would have to be training two or three times a day to make Olympic standard," he tells BBC Radio Cornwall.

Devastating is a good way of describing the sport - it is kickboxing with the added twist of being able to throw elbows and knees as well - a far cry from other recent Olympics additions such as competitive cheerleading and surfing.

"The dedication behind it is unbelievable, the conditioning you have to do and every fight you compete in is so hard," added Kitchen.

"Hopefully now we'll get the recognition we need, as we've been doing this now for so long without the recognition, so it's a godsend that this has come forward."

Muay Thai
Muay Thai, as the name suggests, began in Thailand and brings in huge crowds in the Far East

So what about Kitchen's future Olympic champion?

"I've been all around the world now and Muay Thai is massive, but it's not got the following that it needs," says Payne.

"For us to be in the Olympics would be great, there are so many young children training their hearts out every single day, but they're not getting anything for it, so we could have so many Olympic champions."

There is no guarantee that Muay Thai will ever be selected for an Olympics - sports including squash, bridge, sumo and netball all have recognition but have never made it into a games programme.

The sports for Tokyo 2020 have already been set with surfing, skateboarding and karate all set to make their debut in Japan, but whoever gets the right to stage the games in 2024 could include Muay Thai now it has recognition.

"It would be a dream to have everyone behind me, I'd be so overwhelmed if I got that opportunity," Payne said of the thought of taking part in an Olympics.

"Now that people are talking about it hopefully we can get some funding behind it, and once you've got the funding I don't see why it should take very long at all."