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By Sascha Ryner
A trio of Australian boxers have triumphed to become the King and Queens of the Commonwealth in their divisions tonight, with Skye Nicolson, Anja Stridsman and Harry Garside all collecting gold at their first Commonwealth Games.
22-year-old Skye Nicolson visualised winning gold at her first Commonwealth Games and the golden girl of the boxing world’s premonition has come true after defeating Northern Ireland’s Michaela Walsh 3-2 in the 57 kilograms division.
“It’s been gold for me from the beginning, before I even qualified for the Games, it was about winning gold, so I’m just so happy that I’ve pulled through and reached my goal,” she said.
Nicolson, who comes from a dynasty of boxers, was coronated tonight. She achieved what so many thought she wouldn’t be able to do, not just for herself and Australia, but for her two boxing brothers, one of which was Commonwealth bronze medallist Jamie Nicolson who died before she was born.
The impact of her brother’s death and their lives as athletes has shaped Nicolson’s life. Her parents opened up a boxing club and she began training there when she was 12 years old.
“I had a little chat to my brothers before I went in and they were definitely there with me.
“I won that medal for Jamie and tonight, I’m stoked. It has felt a bit like this was meant to happen. All the lows in my boxing career up until now was all for this moment so I could do this for us.”
Nicolson is one of Australia’s faces of boxing, and with much media attention ahead of the Games, she admitted that her family’s support has been instrumental in her success.
“I felt a lot of pressure earlier in the competition but my family have been messaging me and telling me they’re so proud of me no matter what happens. It’s a big load off and I got to relax and get out there to do what I love.
“I think these Games have really helped shape who I am as an athlete and as a person and I know what it takes to be at the top, and I know how hard it is to get there and it’s worth every second of it.”
A true underdog going into this Commonwealth Games was Swedish born Anja Stridsman who proved tonight an ACL is not crucial for a Commonwealth Games gold medal, after she upset English boxer Paige Murney 5-0.
“It’s amazing. Obviously, I could imagine winning it because otherwise I wouldn’t have gone for it, but has there been doubts? All the way along this journey there has been,” she said.
“And there have been many times when I’ve been faced with giving up or keep going, and I’ve made the choice to keep going every single time, and I was going to keep fighting until there was no other possibility but winning.
“This experience has been so special and that last fight was extra special because I went in there and thought, ‘You’ve got to enjoy this moment, it’s a once in a lifetime thing and I’m going to remember this forever.”
Rising star Harry Garside is confident of his future in boxing now that he has a gold medal around his neck. The 20-year-old Melbourne plumber defeated Indian Manish Kaushik in the men’s 60kg division 3-2.
“I knew this tournament was going to be a tough one, I’ve had five hard matches and they were all quality, so I had to be on my A-game tonight and I got the chocolates,” he said excitedly.
Garside, who started boxing when he was nine, has sacrificed so much to make sure he got to his first Commonwealth Games this year.
“I wouldn’t say I gave up my childhood but I made the choice very early on that I would alter my childhood to follow my dream. I’ve grown distant from many beautiful people, and sometimes it’s extremely lonely but when you’re standing up on top of that podium, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Garside was just one of all three who shed tears taking in the moment as spectators sung the anthem as he stepped up onto the podium, and he looks forward to working hard to ensure he can do that all over again at Tokyo 2020.
“I’m one of the most patriotic people but I couldn’t sing the anthem, but I couldn’t control the tears.
“We’re a young team and clearly a good one. We’ve never won a gold at the Olympics but I definitely think this is the time for Australian boxing.”