TWO-TIME Irish champion Christina Desmond has had her Olympic dreams dashed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The Cill na Martra boxer was isolating alone at home, having been deemed a close contact, when news filtered through from Irish High Performance Director Bernard Dunne that she wouldn’t get the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
Desmond had been gearing up for a ‘last chance’ qualifying tournament in Paris in June but the pandemic had other ideas and the competition was scrapped.
‘It was a big blow. No one expected it. I was on my own isolating so it was even worse, but this is how it goes,’ Desmond said diplomatically when speaking to the Star Sport Podcast.
In February the IOC Boxing Task Force, who are responsible for organising the sport’s Olympic qualification process, released a points-based qualification system to replace the Paris tournament and that system has been used to determine which boxers will qualify for the games.
The new system benefitted several Irish boxers but Desmond wasn’t one of them. Her hopes of securing a ticket to Japan were taken away without even firing off one jab.
‘Once I found out I went for a run straightaway, I was trying to process it. It’s not just the last year I was training. I’ve been training my whole life,’ Desmond said.
‘It’s been a long few years of training and a long few years of ups and downs and to find out that you won’t even get a chance to qualify – I think they’re doing it unfairly’.
Olympic disappointment aside, it’s been a remarkable few years for Desmond, who works as a member of An Garda Síochana in Dungarvan.
In 2019 she finished in the top eight at both the World and European Championships, losing only to the eventual winners at both events. When those performances are coupled with the back-to-back Elite Irish titles she claimed that same year it’s clear just how high calibre an athlete Desmond is.
On whether she plans to remain an amateur and target the Paris games in 2024, Desmond was non-committal.
‘I don’t know yet what I’m going to do. I have been approached and I have been asked (about turning pro). It’s a decision I’ll make with my family. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet,’ she said.
‘I’m still only 24, I’m young, I’m only a baby really so I have a lot of years in me. There’s a lot to weigh up.’
That she has been approached about turning professional is interesting. Her former Irish teammate Katie Taylor has ushered in a new era for women’s professional boxing and it's now the norm for women’s fights to headline major boxing cards on Sky Sports.
‘I don’t really like the business side of it,’ Desmond says of the pro game.
‘I just like to get in and box. I don’t like the shit-talk.’
Whatever Desmond chooses to do with her future, it’s likely she’ll meet the challenge head on. For the past two years she has managed to maintain her performance as an elite athlete while also balancing a full time career on the frontline. Desmond celebrated her second year on the force this week.
‘It has been tough. I’ve only been home (to Cork) a few times since the pandemic hit. But I’m liking it. I like being on the frontline and I’m glad I can try to make a change in the job that I’m in.’