Champion boxer Christina Desmond had to get creative about training during lockdown, as the newly qualified member of An Garda Síochana became extremely busy with her day-job.
While her colleagues grabbed a cup of tea on their breaks, Desmond was logging on for updates with her boxing coaches. Appearing on screen in a Garda uniform is definitely one way to grab the attention on Zoom calls.
Over the past 18 months, the Fr Horgan’s boxer has secured two National Elite finals as well as finishing in the top eight at the World and European championships.
Yet the last few months in particular have been exhausting and now with the COVID19 travel restrictions being lifted, Desmond is relieved to see the end of 12-hour shifts running traffic check-points. The focus now turns back to boxing as the welterweight national champion waits to find out how Ireland will run qualification for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
Desmond, from Cill na Matra in west Cork, boxed in March at the Copper Box Arena in London, at what was the European qualifiers for Tokyo 2020. Coming just as the English health authorities started to think about lockdown, she says robustly the chaotic situation was no excuse for her loss to Italian boxer Angela Carina.
At that point in Ireland even the pubs were shut but in London crowds were allowed in to the tournament.
“I was supposed to box on the Tuesday. It was pulled forward to the Sunday, I was only told on Saturday, we had to cut weight and get ready. It was hard for both of us, the girl was very good and I wasn’t good enough on the day,” she says.
The situation went from bad to worse as the IOC authorities cancelled everything halfway through the schedule. Under normal circumstances, losing boxers at that event were due another shot at qualifying in May, but then all tournaments were cancelled.
What happens next is being worked out, step by step.
“It was hard coming home from London, we didn’t know what was happening. Thank God none of us got sick. We still don’t know exactly, but I think there will be National qualifiers again in Ireland. I will have to qualify again, I think that is unfair.
“I was the Champion the last couple of years, this is another stress we should not be under,” she says.
Having made it to the final eight at the World Championships last year, Desmond is confident she has what it takes to fly the Irish flag.
The national boxing squad resumes training at the Centre of Excellence in Abbotstown at the end of July, with online coaching continuing in the meantime. Desmond says each boxer was assigned a trainer, with conditioning and nutrition advice also continuing.
The lockdown rules also had a big impact on her personal life.
She works in Dungarvan, Co Waterford and her usual commute back to her family and Fr Horgan’s Boxing Club in Cork was out of the question. She turned 24 in April, celebrating with her twin brother on Facetime only.
Her one consolation was living within 2km of the Dungarvan coast and getting in plenty of cardio work between swimming, running, and taking her bicycle up to the hills above the town.
She says: “It’s not ideal, I am working full-time and doing 12-hour shifts. Dungarvan Boxing Club have said they will let me in when they open. I’ve just been doing a lot of cardio, it is hard to make the effort when you are doing it alone.”
Now she has a little more headspace and is starting to think about more focused training. Last week she switched from long runs to 800m speed-work for example.
But focus is an elastic word with no date in sight for her next fight. It’s not just about skills for boxers with their weight playing a huge role. She says she kept the weight down, joking she still looks like the same woman. Not everyone can say that after three months of pandemic baking and eating.
“I will put my head down now, and get back to the shape I was in. I was shredded going into this, it was just after London. It’s impossible to train properly when there is no date, but I’m going to get the head down.”