Kellie Harrington, Aoife O’Rourke and Michaela Walsh are heading to the Tokyo Olympic Games. All three fighters secured their tickets to Tokyo after winning their respective quarter-finals at the European Boxing Olympic qualification event in Paris.
European Middleweight Champion, Aoife O’Rourke, was the first of the Irish trio to take to the ring and was in dominant form as she secured her place in the crucial quarter-final bout. O’Rourke defeated Belarus’ Viktoryia Kebikava with ease with a 4-1 split. The Roscommon fighter outclassed her opponent with superior boxing skills and footwork. Never standing still, O’Rourke boxed beautifully and even picked up a number of 10-8 rounds along the way.
The quarter-final was a much tighter affair. O’Rourke came up against Poland’s 2019 EUBC European Women’s Boxing Championships silver medallist, Elzbieta Wojcik. The Irish fighter had to show real composure against the number four seeded Wojcik, as she recovered from losing the first round to edge a hard-fought victory on all five judges’ scorecards. After things didn’t go her way in the first round, O’Rourke showed bravery and dynamism as she had to think on her feet and change her game plan. Unlike her fight against Kebikava, O’Rourke couldn’t just outbox her opponent she had to dig deep and get physical. Showing her versatility, the European Middleweight Champion pressed on the front foot and landed heavy, clean and accurate shots. In the final round, O’Rourke landed a heavy right hook which effectively secured her victory as Wojcik was forced into a standing count.
2018 World Lightweight Champion, Kellie Harrington, was next to seal her Olympic qualification spot. The Dublin boxer went into her bout facing IBF super-featherweight and professional boxer, Maiva Hamadouche. Hamadouche’s professional boxing record stands at 22 wins and one loss.
The St Mary’s BC fighter left nothing to chance. She completely outclassed her opponent from start to finish. With her French opponent keen to drag her into a brawl, Harrington showed her undeniable class and boxing IQ as she picked her shots beautifully and was able to float in and out of distance comfortably. An incredibly assured performance sealed Harrington’s first ever Olympic qualification with all five judges scoring the fight in Harrington’s favour (29-26, 29-28, 29-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Monkstown Boxing club and 2019 World Cup gold medallist, Michaela Walsh, made sure it was a full house for Team Ireland’s women as she stylishly made sure she was on that plane to Tokyo as well. A proud moment for the Walsh family as brother Aidan also earned his place in Tokyo on the same day.
After securing her place in the quarter-finals on Friday beating France’s European and EU bronze medallist Mona Mestiaen, Walsh faced off against Sweden’s Stephanie Thour. Walsh earned her Olympic place with via a unamious 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 decision.
The two time Commonwealth Games medallist looked comfortable throughout the fight as she showed off her superior skill set and movement to catch her opponent at ease. What has been evident throughout this qualification event is that Team Ireland’s boxers are a class above when it comes to technique and movement. Always moving, always finding pockets to hurt their opponents.
An incredible weekend for Ireland. Bring on Tokyo.