Taylor shows class both in and out of the ring

Wed, Jun 13, 2012, 01:00

IRISH TIMES/IRISH SPORTS COUNCIL SPORTSWOMAN AWARDS:Ireland’s great Olympic hope is actively trying to make her task in London more difficult, writes MARY HANNIGAN

IF KATIE Walsh made the choice for our April Sportswoman of the Month an easy one, after she finished third in the English Grand National, then Katie Taylor made May just as uncomplicated after the Bray boxer won her fourth successive World Championship.

The pressure on Taylor when she set off for China last month was unimaginable, despite so many assumptions that she will bring a medal home from London in August she still needed to even qualify for the Games, so one bad day and the dream could have died.

But she achieved qualification with ease when she reached the last four, and then went on to take her fourth world title in a row, the ‘Best Boxer’ award at the event, top seeding in the lightweight division in London and a bye in to the quarter-finals. A more than reasonable week’s work.

“I’m just so glad to be going into the Olympics in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” she said after beating Russia’s Sofya Ochigava 11-7 in a tense final. And then she repeated her call for the sport’s best fighters, who had missed out on qualification, to be given wildcards for London – a call that had Bernard Dunne laughing during RTÉ’s coverage of the final. “If it was me, I’d want them kept out,” he smiled.

“Hopefully they make the right decisions when handing out those wildcards. We need to showcase women’s boxing,” she said, her father Peter adding yesterday that “okay, you are inviting trouble but I think Katie is taking responsibility for making sure female boxing carries on in the Olympics. Everyone will be watching.”

There can’t, surely, be too many sports figures who want their medal-seeking hopes to be made tougher, but for Taylor, London is as much about promoting women’s boxing as it is about her own ambitions.

Her first bout at the Games will be her quarter-final on August 6th, followed by a rest day. The semi-finals, if she makes it through, are scheduled for August 8th and the finals the next day.

Before then she will carry on training in Bray, before going to Italy for a week a fortnight before the Games. At that point she will hope for three fights in four days, the target the ultimate addition to our two-time Sportswoman of the Year’s already glittering collection of prizes.

MONTHLY AWARD WINNERS SO FAR

Fionnuala Britton (Athletics)

The Wicklow runner emulated Catherina McKiernan’s 1994 European Cross Country Championship success by winning gold in Slovenia.

January

Jessica Kurten (Equestrian)

After a difficult year, when she lost her most experienced horses following a dispute with their owner, Kurten bounced back with her first major Grand Prix victory in 12 months.

February

Fiona Coghlan (Rugby)

Coghlan captained Ireland to their most impressive Six Nations campaign yet, the team comfortably beating Wales, Italy and Scotland, only losing by a point away to France and holding England level at half-time in their Triple Crown match before the champions pulled away in the second half.

March

Audrey O’Flynn (Hockey)

The Cork woman was a member of the Irish team that reached the final of their Olympic Qualifier in Belgium, where they lost to the hosts, her eight goals in five matches making her the tournament top scorer.

April

Katie Walsh (Horse racing)

With some assistance from Seabass, trained by her father Ted, Walsh became the highest-placed female jockey in the history of the English Grand National when she finished third.

This year’s awards cover December 2011 to November 2012