Most Olympic athletes were devastated when Tokyo2020 was put back until next year, but one boxer thinks it might be her ticket to success.
Holding the Irish 54kg national title, Sara Haghighat Joo from Canada is almost at the end of the long application for Irish citizenship. When she gets a green passport in her hand, she’s hoping to be considered for the Olympic squad depending on how post-COVID19 decisions are made.
She represented her home country for three years before love for a Galwayman drew her eye to the Irish set-up.
Temporarily back in Canada because of the uncertain lockdown situation, she says: “I could have my Irish passport by September. The Irish squad is really strong, you’ve got people like Ceire Smith in there so it all depends on how I go in the Nationals.”
Sara plans to box at 51kgs if there are tournaments in Ireland later this year. There are only five divisions available for women at Olympic level: Flyweight (51kg), Featherweight (57kg), Lightweight (60kg), Welterweight (69kg) and Middleweight (75kg).
“I was happy that the Olympics were pushed back to next year,” she says with an embarrassed laugh. “I feel bad even saying that, people are so sick, here and in Ireland.”
Paris2024 was the target before the COVID19 outbreak. But now she is tentatively making new plans to re-join her Irish coach with an eye to next year instead.
Liam Brereton has created an oasis for women’s boxing at his gym in Edenderry, Co Offaly. Regularly hosting international sparring camps and events, big names stepping into the ring include Mary Kom, six-time world champion from India and Ireland’s own Kellie Harrington.
Sara says: “I started training in Ireland last year, I just loved it. It’s unreal sparring down there. I’ve been all over the world with the Canadian team, it’s unreal sparring in Edenderry. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
It has been a rocky journey for Irish boxers with the European Olympic qualifiers stopped in March when coronavirus reality sank in with officials. Boxing stopped mid-tournament which meant some boxers were through but other draws were not complete.
More seriously boxers and coaches from Turkey and Croatia tested positive for COVID19 after the event.
Belfast boxer Carly McNaul fought in the 51kg spot Sara has her eye on, not making it through. What does that mean for Sara? That is anyone’s guess for now.
World organising body AIBA have not said yet said whether a new qualifier will be held or whether bouts already fought will stand. The latter could mean the event picking up with only the remaining bouts to box off and no room for substitutions.
Sara is counting on Irish boxers battling it out again sometime this year. She says: “I’m moving down to 51kg, that’s my Olympic target.”
Sara Haghighat Joo is on Instagram