The first speaker at the S&C launch was Billy Walsh, who was in the news three weeks ago because he was about to resign from being the Head Boxing Coach of the Irish High Performance HP programme since before the Beijing Olympics. When I was young enough to actually do athletics and afterwards when my residual interest in running and jumping was fanned by watching the Olympics on TV every four years, the Olympics was 'amateur'. The amateurs from the Eastern Bloc were streets ahead of their rivals from Western Europe because they were only nominally in the army or PT instructors - the state made sure that they could devote many hours every week training and practicing. The Western amateurs had to leave training for the weekend or an occasional weekday evening while holding down a proper job in a factory or driving a milk-float. Sometime between then and now, everyone realised that winning is a) important b) unlikely, unless c) you put in hours and days and weeks and years of relentless weights and runs and lifts. The Irish Government allocated a tranche of
Irish athletes have won a total of 28 medals in all categories including John Treacy and Ronnie Delany, whom we've met before. 25% of those medals had been won under his tutelage in 5 years. That's a striking achievement by any measure. In answer to a question from the floor, he said that Katie Taylor is the most extraordinary boxer he's ever had dealings with. This young woman can always find it in herself to do better. Whatever challenge she faces and overcomes, she is always ready to turn round and try harder against herself and her own exacting standards rather than against the girls whom she pummels into losing.
I was itching to ask the elephant-in-the-room question about how he reconciled concussion and contact sport encephalopathy CSE with a duty of care to the athletes in his dojo, but thought it would be bad manners to be controversial on such a big day for my sporty colleagues. I was glad, therefore, when one of the students asked what Walsh felt about the removal of protective head-gear from amateur boxers a couple of years ago. Well, Walsh was amazed that such a diktat had been issued by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and frankly unable to comprehend their motives. On his watch over boxing in Ireland he knew of 2 concussions in ten years when head protection was required and 10 concussions in just over 2 years since bare-headed boxing was agreed. Larger samples indicate that concussion is paradoxically less likely in helmeted bouts that unprotected ones. hmmm, I dunno; I think the TV networks will have had something to say about how the spectacle is improved if the viewers can see the blows land directly between the
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