Echo Women in Sport award: Christina Desmond on the unexpected lows and incredible highs this year

The Cork boxer wins the Echo prize for October for her outstanding performances in Budva with Ireland
Echo Women in Sport award: Christina Desmond on the unexpected lows and incredible highs this year

 Boxer Christina Desmond, winner of The Echo Women in Sport monthly award for October. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

RECENTLY, Macroom's Christina Desmond returned from the European Boxing Championships in Budva with a silver medal proudly around her neck.

A magnificent achievement that sees Cill na Martra's Christina named as our The Echo Women in Sports award winner for October.

But her achievement was all the more remarkable as she wasn't picked on the team originally to go and was called up when another boxer, Lisa O'Rourke, got injured.

So with little or no training to win a silver medal is simply an incredible result. And considering she only lost out on the gold medal on a split decision shows just how well Christina boxed throughout the tournament.

Christina has been flying the Cork boxing flag since first emerging as a promising fighter with Macroom BC and then training at Fr Horgan's. The Dungarvan-based garda is a former Youth Olympian, multiple Irish title holder and now a two-time European medallist.

"At the start of the year things were going well for me, I won the golden belt at a prestigious international tournament in Romania. After that my aim was the world championships in May-June but I didn't get picked for the team," said Christina.

Another girl got picked instead of me and that was heartbreaking and everything was ripped apart for me. 

"That was my aim, my plan and I do believe I would have won a medal so I was heartbroken and I didn't like boxing and didn't want to be involved in the sport so I wasn't really training Hard.

"In the middle of the summer I went back training just to keep fit so then I went and boxed in England at the start of September for the guards and I fought a girl from America and got the taste for it again. That was only a bit of craic but it gave me a taste for boxing again.

Christina Desmond, right, in action against Ani Hovsepyan of Armenia. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Christina Desmond, right, in action against Ani Hovsepyan of Armenia. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

"Then I got a call in mid-September would I go to the European Championships at 70kg. I was close enough to the weight and averagely fit so I said I'd give it a go. My coach said I was absolutely mental to go and take on athletes that had been training full-time and who were very strong.

"They are now training full-time towards the Olympics but I went for it anyway and it worked out in the end. I felt no pressure going into the tournament. I was doing it for me and no one else. 

LET DOWN

"I felt let down by the Irish set-up at the start of the year and it was hard coming home to my family and work colleagues when I didn't get picked after the camp.

"All I wanted to do was prove it to myself and even though I was the senior person on the team in some ways I felt new as they had all been bonding for the year, but we had good craic. I still wasn't the oldest but I am the most senior in that I have been on the team now for about 10 years."

Looking at the fights Christina started against a boxer from Ukraine in the prelims.

Ukraine boxers are torture to box, they just keep coming at you. They have engines that are just massive and they might not be the best at actually boxing but they never stop and they can hit hard. 

"I was facing a boxer that beat the girl I faced in the golden belt earlier in the year so I knew it was going to be a tough fight.

"I then heard she had been a pro boxer because they can come back now and fight in these competitions so my head was all over the Place. All I wanted to do was box well and win one fight and so once I got through that I was happy enough.

"I went on then to fight a girl from Sweden to try and secure a medal. She was 6 foot 2 or 3 inches and she was well over me height-wise. I knew she was strong and awkward as I had seen her on pads a few days before.

"But I picked her off nicely and felt I was getting better and managed to come out on top so the pressure was off then as I had secured a medal. I never expected that and my dreams had come through at that Stage.

"So I had nothing to lose going into the semi-final as I felt the pressure was off and I faced an Italian boxer in the semi-final. I had sparred with her in camps and knew she had won youth world and European championships.

"I knew I was going to be up against it and would have to fight well, but I felt that I was improving with every fight. I picked her off with my backhand (left hand) which is my power shot and before the start of the last round the coaches said to just enjoy it and don't get caught as they felt I had it in the bag."

NO PRESSURE

In the final, she took on an Armenian, a top-class final.

"The place was going mad at home after I got to the final and again I went into the final feeling no pressure. I probably gave her too much respect in the first round. She never goes on the back foot and she did and it ruined my tactics as I had never seen her do this. I wanted her to come for me and I feel she was told to stay away from my backhand.

"She got the first round and then second round was alright but I thought I beat her in the third round but the judges gave it to her on a split decision. It was a close fight and I can't say I was robbed. Some thought I was but I didn't think so. 

I was in a European final with only a couple of weeks training against athletes who had been training for months.

"I was delighted when I came out of the ring having won the silver and was over the moon when I was getting the medal. I can look back now and say I am after doing something huge and take it with me for the rest of my days and considering the training I had done it's something I will always be very proud of."


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