God, gold and me
Over the last couple of years when we've boxed each other in big championships at European or world level, our rivalry has sharpened. Outside the ring, we say hello, we're not unfriendly, but that's about it. Years ago, when we were in different weight classes, we'd probably have gone out after the competition, sat around and had a coffee. We were friendly and I found her quite a funny person to be with. But now we are in the same weight division, that option has gone - it's difficult to be close to girls you are competing against on a regular basis. Regardless of what she said, I still think she's a nice girl and her comments were uncharacteristic. She is a very talented boxer who is great for the sport.
All pressure is relative, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel it bearing down heavily on me. In every contest I've ever fought, there is some pressure to deal with. Often the greatest pressure is that which I put on myself. I knew the fans expected me to do well, and by now I was very aware of the massive support for me around London and back home in Ireland. So this time, I was feeling the pressure of other people's expectations creeping into my head in a way that I hadn't experienced to the same degree before. Normally, I'm strong at keeping out external things, but this Olympic final was something I had never faced before.
I wanted it to be over and done with, and that was a terrible way to think. On a couple of occasions in previous fights, when I haven't been able to enjoy the process of the build-up, I've fought and lost. I found it unnerving that on the most important day of my boxing life, and on the verge of fulfilling the dreams I've carried in my heart since I was a young girl, the nerves were knotting in my stomach and a part of me didn't want to face the battle.
Struggling to cope with finals is not what people expect of me. I think they believe that because I have won so many titles at European and world level, I'm mentally capable of coping with any boxing situation, and usually I am. It's one of the strongest facets of my game.
But, like anyone, I can have doubts, and it's at these times when it is so important to remind myself of the promises of God for my life. I remember speaking a verse from the book of Philippians to myself, it says: 'I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.'
In their support for me, my family play different roles, Mam prays and Dad talks tactics. On the morning of the final, Dad came over to me in the Olympic Village. We wanted to make sure that Thursday August 9th, 2012 was no different from over a dozen important finals I've been in, and we went for a walk as we always do. We walked for about 30 minutes, and it didn't matter where we went. We talked about the fight, how it was going to go, what might or might not happen, and how I was feeling - anything that we thought needed to be aired. This time was also about relaxing, getting prepared and being with someone I trusted, somewhere other than sat in my room.
Whatever city we are in, we have always found a route and we do the same walk over and over throughout the week. It's part of an unbreakable routine we have on competition day, and that day it began early at 8.00am when I had to get up for the weigh-in. After the scales, I went back to my room for breakfast instead of going to the main dining hall, because I wanted privacy and some space to do my own thing.
It was about 11 when Dad called so we could go for our walk, and we strolled out from the village up to Olympic Park and around by the athletics stadium, a vast, wide area where you can look across and see the velodrome, the aquatic centre and the basketball arena. When we came back, Mam arrived at about two o'clock to do my hair and pray.
It's the same ritual all the time and it has worked for me for years. It's a case of 'if it is not broke don't fix it'. We never change.
Throughout the day, I listen to the same worship songs on my iPod and I read the same Bible verses. When I'm boxing or preparing for a fight, it's when I feel closest to God.
This Olympic dream was too big for me to deal with on my own, so for the last 10 years, I have relied on God and I've put everything in His hands. It's hard to put everything you hold dear in the hands of someone else, because it's natural to want to be in control, but I've learned from experience that God will never let me down so I just try to trust Him.
The journey to the ExCeL centre from the village was about 30 minutes by bus. The team with me consisted of my dad, Irish head coach Billy Walsh and Zauri Antia, Ireland's technical coach. There were very few words spoken, except by Billy and Zauri, who were cracking a few jokes to try to lighten the mood.
Once inside the arena, I stuck to the same routine and did the same warm-up in the changing room as I'd done for my previous fights. I have quite a long warm-up session, which lasts maybe 45 or 50 minutes. I always wear the same warm-up tee-shirt which said on the front 'It is God who arms me with strength' and on the back were the words 'He trains my hands for battle'.
Before we left the tunnel for the final, my dad was constantly giving me instructions, reinforcing what he has been saying to me in the warm-up area.
He kept on repeating what he wanted me to do for the first 30 seconds of the first round, going over the tactics he had planned for the fight.