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Australia’s boxing coach, Kevin Smith is bullish about the medal chances of the five Australian women competing at the Commonwealth Games.
By Dan Lonergan
Australia has qualified in five of the six women’s weight divisions, only missing out on the lightest 48 kilograms in what is the second time women have competed in boxing. At its first appearance four years ago, there were three divisions, so great news for women’s boxing that it has been doubled for these Games.
It’s a very inexperienced team overall with none of the eight men, who qualified in all but two weight divisions having had no previous Commonwealth Games experience and just one female, Kaye Scott, who is competing in the 69kg class four years ago after representing Australia in the 75kg division in 2014.
Skye Nicolson is another boxer, who won a world championship at 64kg, who has elected to slip down a weight division to 57kg and at her best is considered a big chance of being on the podium.
Local Taylor Robertson will be lifting in her first international event, but Kevin Smith feels good about her prospects.
In the 60kg division, Anja Stridsman has made a miraculous recovery from an ACL knee injury less than six months ago and this will be her first event back.
Caitlin Parker has had medal winning experience picking up a bronze at the youth world championships and coach, Kevin Smith believes she is a strong medal chance.
Shelley Watts, who won gold for Australia in the 57kg class in Glasgow, which was the first ever gold medal won by a woman in boxing, missed out on selection for the home games, which indicates there is an excellent amount of depth.
Kevin says he likes having a young team to coach as they seem very hungry for success. He believes a good meet for the men would be to snare two medals with such an inexperienced group.
England look very strong in the men’s competition and have legitimate medalists in most weight divisions. Boxing has been labelled as Northern Ireland’s strongest sport and they are expected to feature on the podium on a regular basis as well.
Three of the male boxers have never competed in an international event before, Liam Wilson, who will box in the 64kg class, Terry Nicholls in the 69kg division and former NRL player, Toesi Vousiuti, who caused a boil over to qualify for the Games.
He had only taken up boxing instead of NRL two years ago and beat Glasgow silver medallist, Joe Goodall to gain a birth in this team.
Despite all the male competitors being first time Commonwealth Games representatives, there is a boxer with Olympic Games experience from Rio in heavyweight boxer, Jason Whateley . The favourite in this weight division is the New Zealander, David Nika. Campbell Somerville boxing in the 75kg class for Australia went to the most recent world championships, but didn’t qualify, so to qualify for the Commonwealth Games should give him plenty of confidence.
Clay Waterman, who will represent Australia in the 81kg class was a star as a junior winning a world junior title in the 81kg class, but Kevin Smith says there is so much talent from the big four commonwealth countries in this division and all the others in Northern Ireland, Canada, India and England, but knows his charges will relish the challenge. The boxing captain and gold medallist of the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games, Jack Bowen is in the lightest division for Australia which qualified at 56kg.
Australia‘s performances in winning medals at Commonwealth Games, which was an inaugural sport when it was the British Empire Games in 1930 have been solid. They have clinched a total of 49 medals including 14 gold.
There is also a strong history of Australian boxers having success at Commonwealth and Olympic Games in winning medals and then carving out professional careers such as Daniel Geale and Graham ‘spike” Cheney.
Australia also has a good omen from the last home commonwealth Games in 2006 in Melbourne when they won five medals including two gold. According to coach, Kevin Smith, the opportunities are there for these talented young boxers to create their own history at another home games.