By Madeleine Wright
Australia’s first-ever female boxer at the Commonwealth Games, makes her Games return and is ready to rumble in Birmingham.
Light flyweight boxer Kristy Harris has punched her ticket to compete at her second Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this month.
After her history-making debut in Glasgow in 2014, it has been a self-described “whirlwind” to get back to the Commonwealth Games for the 50kg fighters.
“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster since the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games,” Harris said
‘Ups and downs, injuries, setbacks plus a lot more fights since then and a lot more experience.”
Harris made her Commonwealth Games debut in extraordinary style.
At the Glasgow Games, the then 21-year-old was the youngest member of an 11-strong squad of boxers, when women’s boxing made its Commonwealth Games debut.
Harris describes the 2014 Games as a special experience that was about much more than just the results in the ring.
“It was a double win, making the team first of all, but also making history and having women’s boxing at the Commonwealth Games,” Harris recalled.
“It’s even more special because I’m such a big advocate for women in sport and gender equality.”
Kristy Harris wins her first round 51kg Boxing match at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
From the highs of the sport at the Glasgow 2014 Games, the lead into the Gold Coast 2018 brought about the lows of the sport from Harris, after injury caused her to miss the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Breaking her leg, meant Harris was forced to redirect her focus and attention from travelling overseas and competing for medals to more realistic and achievable goals to ensure she progressed in her recovery.
Quoting American ultramarathoner David Goggins, Harris lives by the ethos of “to grow you must suffer and you must suffer to grow” when reflecting upon her injuries and setbacks.
Previously Harris stated that boxing was a source of purpose and identity within her life, with boxing becoming who she was.
Acknowledging the challenges she faced when her injuries stripped her of her identity, Harris ultimately learnt more about herself, allowing her to become mentally stronger and more resilient for future challenges.
“I wasn’t going to let it stop me… if you want something that bad, you will find a way to do it,” Harris stated.
Now fit and healthy, Harris has had to adapt to new challenges brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic, but found a release through a passion for music, including forming a punk rock band with friends.
The band helped provide light-hearted fun for Harris during lockdown periods while also drawing upon her own boxing experiences in her songwriting, such as ‘Too Pretty’, a song about female boxers
“It was so much fun,” Harris said
“Making music was really good for my mental health to do because I wasn’t used to being home for so long… and really cool to have something productive to do with my mates.”
Harris has continued to be an inspirational figure in the sporting landscape with her interests in mental health and women in sport displayed heavily in her keynote speeches, but also her interests in the administration side of the sport she loves.
Recently , Harris was elected to the International Boxing Association (IBA) Board of Directors at the World Championships held in Turkey Harris’ focus is on the culture of Olympic-style Boxing and ensuring the sport remains on the Olympic programme
“Gender equality [in boxing] is improving and has come a long way, but it’s still got a fair way to go,” Harris stated.
“Our main goal is keeping boxing in the Olympics.”
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While Harris is interested in the future of the sport, her immediate focus is on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, where she is one of four female boxers ready to battle the best from across the Commonwealth.
Harris joins debutant Tina Rahimi on the Australian Team and two returning Commonwealth Games Australia alumni to the squared circle in Gold Coast 2018 silver medallist Caitlin Parker and three-time Commonwealth Games representative Kaye Scott.
Harris reflected on her previous experiences and the strong relationships she formed with Scott and Parkerover the years.
“Kaye was my first ever roommate on my first boxing trip in 2012,” Harris described.
“She took me under her wing… to do the first overseas trip together and still be sticking at it all these years later doing it together again is just awesome.
“I see Caitlin as a sister, I’ve travelled with her for years. We’ve spent so much time just helping each other and training alongside one another.”
Before arriving in Birmingham, the Boxing team heads to Ireland for a staging camp to focus on additional preparation and sparring before the Games begin.
Harris has a clear and simple goal for herself leading into Birmingham.
“An intrinsic goal of mine is to have a good fight. Focus on what I need to do, perform, and fight well,” Harris said.
“The outcome is out of my control… I’ll just do everything I can on my end.”
While she hasn’t decided what lies in store after the Birmingham Games, the allure of the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games events taking place in her hometown of Geelong, has piqued her interests in a possible tilt at a third Commonwealth Games appearance.
“I think it would be absolutely amazing to compete at the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games,” Harris said.
“It would be so cool to have a crowd of family and friends cheering and seeing me fight in person, but life is unpredictable… who knows what lies ahead for me in the next 4 years.”
“there’s other passions I’d love to pursue outside of the ring… but right now it’s all about the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, after that I’ll take time to reassess.”
With Victoria on the horizon, Harris’ focus is firmly set on stepping through the ropes later this month and being bold in gold in Birmingham.