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Amy Broadhurst has done a brave thing switching to Great Britain – but things could get messy at Paris

Switching to fight for Team GB can’t have been easy for the world champion from Dundalk but it underlines what a singular life you have to lead to be an Olympian

If you think the Amy Broadhurst situation feels messy now, wait until she qualifies for the Olympics. The last-chance saloon for making the plane to Paris will flap its doors in Thailand in the coming weeks and if Broadhurst can live up to the form that made her World, European and Commonwealth champion in 2022, she could well make her way through to fight at 60kg in late July and early August.

For Great Britain. In the same weight class as Kellie Harrington.

When and if that happens – and with apologies to Edmund Blackadder – you’re looking at a messier mess than Little Miss Messy sitting in Messrs Maguires, eating an Eton Mess. Two Irish world champions fighting each other in any circumstance is extraordinary and unique and not comfortable for anybody. The pair of them trying to beat each other to an Olympic medal would be wild times altogether.

You can also add in the fact that there exists – or at least existed – a little spice in the relationship between them already. Harrington beat Broadhurst in 2018 to move to the top of the 60kg pecking order for Tokyo. Broadhurst mentioned in an interview later that year that she wouldn’t be stepping back when 2024 comes around and that she didn’t think Harrington would be able to beat her by then.


At the time, Harrington didn’t take kindly to the suggestion – whether intended or otherwise – that her pre-eminence was down to anything other than her being the best fighter at the weight. “She didn’t have the balls to step up and take the chance herself,” was her assessment of Broadhurst.

Once the latter moved to 66kg, everybody made nice. And maybe it will stay that way – they’ve been team-mates, sparring partners and high-performance allies for a long time now. But one way or another, it’s all out there and all to play for. It will be mentioned if they end up taking each other on, don’t worry about that.

Broadhurst has a distance to travel before then, of course. As she heads to Bangkok with the GB team, she has to be acutely aware that nobody at the qualifying tournament is ploughing a lonelier furrow than her. The fact that she has been chosen to fight for the British team – she qualifies through her English father – has pleased virtually nobody.

Not Broadhurst herself, who has spent her whole career aiming herself towards fighting at the Olympics in an Irish singlet. Not the British boxers at her weight who have trained for a full Olympic cycle only to see an Irish interloper come in and be handed the last chance to qualify. Not, presumably, the support staff in the British team, who have forged relationships with the fighters she has leapfrogged and now have to do their best for someone they don’t particularly know.

So yeah, it’s all a bit messy. And the one thing that usually simplifies matters – going out and winning – won’t make things any less complicated here. Let’s say Broadhurst arrives in Bangkok in the form we know she’s capable of and goes and wins the qualifying tournament. One of the great achievements of her life will come attached to a whole world of muddle.

It will mean the girl from Glenmore Park in Dundalk will be bounced into a world where clips of the Union Jack rising over the ring and God Save the King ringing out go flying around the internet, with none of the nuances of the situation given any sort of airing. There’s a bit of it out there already, with people calling her a turncoat (among other, less printable, names). However this ends, Broadhurst is choosing a difficult road for herself here.

She would be adamant that she had no choice in the matter. Once the IABA went with Gráinne Walsh as the Irish representative at 66kg – with Harrington already selected to defend her 60kg gold medal – Broadhurst was left with only one avenue to the Olympics. What could she do only try to take it?

For one thing, she will be 31 by the time 2028 comes around. For another, there’s a very real chance boxing won’t feature at the Los Angeles games. You only get to be a 27-year-old reigning world champion in an Olympic year once. If you had a chance to do it, what would stop you?

The instinctive answer, of course, is nationality. Broadhurst has fought and won medals in both an Irish singlet and a Northern Irish one. She has done so as a member of the High Performance Unit, paid for at least in part by the Irish taxpayer.

In her five years of being a Sport Ireland-funded athlete, she has earned grants totalling €123,000. A scenario whereby those resources ultimately end up training a gold medal winner for Britain – and especially if it happens at the expense of an Irish hero – would obviously leave a sting.

When it comes right down to it though, none of that is Broadhurst’s concern. She should probably be careful not to overdo the injured party routine – Walsh is an outstanding candidate who beat her last year and was done by brutal judging at a qualifying event in March. But the Olympics are the Olympics and we only pass this way once.

If anything, Broadhurst’s choice to try to get to Paris in a British vest only underlines what a singular life you have to lead to be an Olympian. And that we get the Olympics all wrong, looking in from the outside.

We frame so much of it through identity and nationality, essentially treating the games as a team sport that we get ourselves up for anew every four years. But at its heart, the Olympics are thousands and thousands of lonely, personal journeys, all trying to arrive at the same spot in peak shape at a given hour, once every 1,461 days.

The people making those journeys know that you, the dutiful Irish/British/whatever sportswatcher, will cheer them on and wish them well on the day. But they also know, in the coldest, most realistic way imaginable, that for the vast majority of the rest of the cycle you won’t know their names or give them a minute’s thought.

For plenty of them, the emotional heft provided by representing their country is a real thing. In the language of high-level sport, it is a key part of their why. But when you spend so much of your life pursuing an individual goal like an Olympic medal, ultimately you tend to look inward for your why. You spend so much of the road with only yourself for company. You owe that person your best, not a flag or a country.

Broadhurst has done a big, brave thing here. We can hope she doesn’t succeed if she does happen to come up against Harrington in August. But we can still admire the balls it has taken to step up and take the chance.