Kurt Walker is determined to be competing on the final day of the European Games having suffered the heartbreak of being knocked out on opening day four years ago.
The Lisburn featherweight was somewhat inexperienced back in 2015, but was seen as an operator with the kind of talent to push toward what back then would have been a first major medal.
However, he fell at the first hurdle to the eventual gold medallist and was left distraught. Indeed, Walker admits it took him quite some time to get over his early exit, but points out he used that hurt to motivate him moving forward.
The 24-year-old bounced back and proceeded prove his international class with a bronze in the 2017 European Champions and a sliver in the 2018 Commonwealth Games – and now he wants to upgrade to gold.
The Canal BC fighter told Irish-Boxing.com he is going all out to ensure the top of the podium is his final destination in Minsk.
“In the last Games I was put out in the first round on the first day. It was very hard for me to get over as the excitement was massive for the Games,but that happening to me has definitely stuck with me and helped me progress over the years,” he adds before stressing he wants a completely different outcome this time around.
“My target is always gold..being honest I used to settle for any medal when I was starting my senior career, but I know how good I am, all I want is gold.”
Walker goes into the tournament on the back of a relatively quiet few months. Injury suffered in his EU final win over Peter McGrail kept him out of the National Elite Championships, but he retained his status as Ireland’s #1 bantamweight and traveled to Belarus on Tuesday.
He certainly doesn’t think any time out of the competitive ring has him at any disadvantage, in fact he claims to be sharper and fitter than ever.
“I’m feeling great for these championships. We had a great camp and I got three brilliant spars in with USA, India and Romania.
“In all honestly I believe I’m the fittest and sharpest I’ve ever been. I feel like I’m getting better every year and I’m always learning so I can’t wait to see what this tournament brings.”
Walker has Toyko ambitions and believes that the European Games, although not a qualifier, is the closest you will get to the Olympic experience – and in that regard he will use it as taster for what might be ahead in 2020.
“In terms of International competitions I would rank this tournament very highly. It’s the closest thing you would get to the Olympics. This tournament being a Games with all other athletes gives our team good experience of what to expect at the Olympics so it’s great that way.”