NICOLA ADAMS’S girlfriend has revealed how she grew “lonely” and was forced to move out because of the boxer’s relentless Strictly training with pro dancer Katya Jones.
Ella Baig, 22, said she was pushed to breaking point by being stuck in their rented London flat while the Olympian rehearsed in a studio every day for the BBC1 dance show.
The model and beauty blogger made the difficult decision to return to her native Leeds to be with her mum. And she describes being away from her lover — who she calls Nicki — as “the worst time of my life”.
Ella said: “Nicki would be training all day then come home, chill and sleep. I would try to keep busy in the house, tidying up, cleaning and trying to shoot content. But mostly I was just watching TV.
“I started feeling really down and having panic attacks, where my heart was racing and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had dark thoughts.
“There was another national lockdown, restaurants and hair salons were all closed and as I was in a bubble with Nicki and Katya I wasn’t allowed to go out and see anyone.”
On moving back to Leeds, she added: “We were apart for two months and it was a hard decision not to see Nicki for that long but you have to put your health first. It was one of the worst periods of my life.”
But Ella insists she never saw Katya, 31, as “competition” and her two-year relationship with Nicola is stronger than ever. In fact, she revealed the retired fighter, 38, has planned a “special surprise” for Valentine’s Day today.
Nicola won gold at the 2012 London Games and went on to be WBO female flyweight champ. She and Katya were one of the most talked about pairings of last year’s series.
They had been tipped to win but. three weeks into the competition, Russian Katya tested positive for Covid and the pair had to self-isolate. Strictly bosses announced in November that they would have to leave the show.
The news was a crushing blow for Nicola, who we can reveal was already in turmoil over Ella’s decision to move back to Leeds, where they own a house together.
Before Strictly kicked off Ella rubbished suggestions the couple would fall victim to the notorious Strictly Curse, responsible for a series of public break-ups.
One of the most scandalous to rock the show involved then-married Katya, who was caught kissing her dance partner, comedian Seann Walsh, in 2018.
Ella said in October: “Nicki and me are best friends so I don’t really see anyone as competition and she doesn’t either.”
Nicola also poured scorn on suggestions she would stray, saying: “Our family and friends have been taking the mickey about the Strictly Curse but Ella’s fine.”
Yet behind the scenes Ella was struggling with loneliness as Nicola put in 60 hours’ training a week. With no one but their dog Brooklyn for company during the day, Ella stopped eating and found even getting out of bed had become a battle.
She said: “It was an accumulation of not dealing with deep-rooted problems with my mental health. If you keep pushing it down, everything comes to the surface eventually.
“I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety since I was 12. I know I’ve battled with myself over my sexuality and who I am as a person.
“Being alone with nothing to do was the hardest thing. I couldn’t go out and see my friends or go to a restaurant to have a nice meal on the weekend. Taking the dog out was the highlight of my day.
"Nicki was busy rehearsing and working out. She had things to do to keep her busy but before long I could not be bothered to do anything.
“I stopped getting dressed up to post photos on Instagram like I normally do. I was lucky if I brushed my hair.
“I stopped exercising and caring about my body image and would forget to eat because I didn’t feel hungry. At one point I was having one to two meals every few days and sometimes just a bag of microwave rice.
“Nicki did her best to support me and we weren’t squabbling or anything. But the signs were there that I needed to do something. I was not suicidal but it got to the point where it was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning.”
Just one week into the second national lockdown, Ella moved in with her mum Caroline, a nurse, in Leeds.
She said: “I knew that if I had stayed longer in London it would have had a very negative effect on my mental health, so I made the decision to go home and bubble with my family.
“At least then I had someone around all the time. I missed Nicki and it was miserable waking up alone, but we still spoke on the phone every day. The uncertainty and the isolation were the worst things for me.”
But Ella insists her decision to temporarily move away from Nicola had nothing to do with the state of their relationship.
She said: “I heard the rumours we had broken up and I was like, ‘Have we? That’s news to me’. The curse didn’t affect us at all.
“Katya would come round for a drink with Nicki after a rehearsal and we would chill together. There were no hard feelings there. There was no competition.”
Strictly bosses invited Nicola and Katya back to perform at the final on December 19. The risk of catching coronavirus meant Nicola was not allowed to see her girlfriend until after the show. It was almost two months before the couple were reunited in the capital.
Ella said: “I continued watching the show after Nicki left to support everyone else. But what happened was a real shame. I was never worried about Covid because Katya was asymptomatic and Nicki had tested negative. But it was great to have her back after so long. Christmas was just me, Brooklyn and Nicki.”
Ella says she still messages Katya “now and again” and that her relationship with Nicola is stronger than ever.
She added: “Lockdown has put a strain on a lot of relationships but the distance actually helped us because it made me work on myself, which was important.
“We’ve been binge-watching Bridgerton to get through this lockdown. She loves playing her guitar, I’m learning Spanish.
“Nicki is surprising me for Valentine’s. I have no clue what she’s doing. I’m just hoping it doesn’t involve being outside.”
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