LAUREN Williams takes a “major step” towards fulfilling her Olympic dream today as she bids for a second successive European taekwondo title.

The Blackwood teenager, a gold medallist at the same championships in 2016, starts as a favourite to go all the way in the -67kg category.

Success for 19-year-old Williams in Kazan, Russia would give her a massive boost two years out from the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Having gone to Rio 2016 as a reserve for Bianca Walkden, Williams is hungry to take her place alongside the world’s best in Japan in 2020.

“The road to Tokyo began for me the day I stepped into the academy in Manchester,” she said.

“Every step now is a step towards Tokyo.

“Every competition counts, but the Europeans are a major step to my goal.”

She added: “I expected coming into the academy and with the way the rankings system works that I wouldn’t get enough points to get me into the top six to qualify (for Rio).

“But I didn’t expect to go as a reserve so when that experience came around it was phenomenal.

“I didn’t think ‘I am here and I am so close’.

“But it was hard to watch my weight category on the day as I felt I had the ability to do something at the Olympics.

“But that time wasn’t then. But I did use the experience to my advantage and gained as much as I could from it and hopefully that will help me in the build-up to Tokyo.”

Speaking to, Williams insisted that despite going to Russia as a defending champion she did not feel under any added pressure to retain her crown.

“It was quite unexpected,” said the youngster of her triumph in Switzerland.

“I had only just transitioned to the senior programme so I didn’t have any expectation going into that competition.

“It was ‘I am going to go there and do my best’ and I came away with the gold.

“This time there is that added pressure with people expecting me to medal.

“But I will just focus on what I have to do on the day. I am not putting that extra pressure on myself.”

Flint’s double Olympic champion Jade Jones defended her -57kg title yesterday having won gold in Montreux in 2016.

Jones was pushed all the way by Turkey’s Hatice Kubra before winning via a golden point.

“Both Jade and Bianca are massive role models, their intensity and commitment to the training sessions is still as strong as when they first started,” said Williams.

“For me that’s amazing to see and to be training with them is the best preparation I could have.

“I know some athletes would be like ‘I’ll retire now as I’ve done everything’, but Jade’s mentality is amazing.

“I want to achieve as much as Jade has.”

* St Joseph’s boxer Sean McGoldrick goes for a fifth straight win in Gloucester tonight.