Olympic boxing qualification tournament to resume in April
Thirteen Irish to compete in event that began in March but was abandoned due to Covid
The 2018 world champion Kellie Harrington is one of the Irish boxers due to compete. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Chapter two of the widely criticised Olympic boxing qualification tournament, which began in the Copper Box Arena in London’s Olympic Park in March before being suspended because of growing concerns surrounding the spread of Covid-19, will resume again in April.
Thirteen Irish boxers, eight male and five female, including 2018 world champion Kellie Harrington, were due to compete in the event that began on March 14th but was abandoned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Task Force after three days. By that stage one Irish boxer, Brendan Irvine, had qualified for Tokyo and three from the team had been eliminated.
The London competition is expected to resume from where it stopped with Irish boxers meeting those opponents they were already drawn against in March.
“They are going back to the Copper Box Arena,” said Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) CEO Fergal Carruth. “From what we know they will take up from where they left off. One Irish boxer is qualified, three were beaten and nine still active in the competition. The boxers who participated in London will be taking up their positions for the next round by the looks of it. The competition just picks up from where it left off.”
Christina Desmond (69kg), Carly Mc Naul (51kg) and Kurt Walker (57kg) lost their opening bouts and were eliminated but they may get a final chance to qualify at the World Qualifying event in the summer if selected.
“The beaten boxers, their weight will get a second opportunity at the World Qualifying event which is due to take place in May-June,” added Carruth. “We’ll still be hopeful for those weights but we don’t know who will be competing in that qualifier. It could change but it could be the same boxers also. That’s a matter for the High Performance team, the coaches and the HP Director [Bernard Dunne].”
The Irish team is currently training in a bubble environment at the High Performance centre in the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin and are all staying locally in the Carlton Hotel in Tyrellstown. Both the male and female members of the team are training together.
Buoyed by the fact the IOC have given as many assurances as they can that the Games will go ahead, IOC president Tomas Bach has also announced that all avenues to proceed will be pursued including the organisation buying their own reserves of vaccine once it becomes available.
“Everything that’s coming from the IOC is very positive in terms of the Games going ahead,” says Carruth. “All of the releases coming from Tomas Bach and anything from the IOC has been good. The team are getting great confidence from that. He (Bach) has been quite open about the vaccine in terms of buying it up. They IOC have deep pockets and a large amount of reserves. That’s positive that they can put those to good use in terms of the vaccines. Whether there is going to be spectators is another question. But from a boxing point of view we are taking great confidence from that.”
The 2016 Olympics in Rio was the high point for the number of boxers that qualified, eight, although London with three male medals from John Joe Nevin (silver), Michael Conlan (Bronze) and Paddy Barnes (Bronze) with a gold from Katie Taylor was the most successful. It might also be of some comfort to Irish qualifiers that the same international governing body that ran Rio, where all the referees were later suspended, will not be running the boxing in Tokyo.
“The boxing will be run by the IOC and the AIBA won’t have a hand in the refereeing or the judging, which should give great confidence to our athletes that qualify” said Carruth.
“Rio had the highest number of Irish qualifiers since 1992, when qualifications first came in. Prior to that we were able to name our team and how many we wanted to send. So this time we’ll be looking for multiple qualifications from our male and female athletes.
“Qualification is a huge step forward to actually medalling. Anybody who ends up qualifying for the Olympic Games would be a real medal contender and that’s something you might not see in other sports.”
The final world qualifying event will begin in Paris in June.