Diary of an Olympian

16 July 2008 – by John Joe Joyce with Rob Mulhern

I got a scare this week in France. On the first day of sparring I picked up a small cut just under my eye and I had to mind it for the rest of the week.

I was sparring with Bradley Saunders, the English qualifier in my weight, and also with the French 60kg qualifier. At the end of the session I noticed Id a bad scratch under my eye and it just kept opening during sparring.

I thought it would be all right, but the next day I was in the ring with Englands Frankie Gavin and was really looking forward to sparring him – hes the current World Amateur Champion – But after one round we had to stop because of the cut.

I was happy with the way it went, though. I got Frankie some nice body shots and he got me some nice ones too, but I couldnt do any more because of my eye. To be honest, Id be confident enough if I met Bradley Saunders in the Olympics after sparring with him, but whoever I meet, Im going to have to be at my best.

Paddy (Barnes) and Darren (Sutherland) sat out some of the sparring sessions too, because Paddy strained his thumb and Darren hurt his wrist. Neither of them are too serious, though.

We just have to be so careful now in the lead into the Olympics. No one wants to pick up any injuries, but with the training getting tougher you cant help picking up the niggly stuff. Its just a case now of putting lots of Vaseline on your face to stop the cuts and double bandages on your wrists before you go sparring.

Im rooming with Paddy Barnes (Holy Family, Belfast) and me and him have a laugh and get on well. Wed be friendly enough with the English lads too. I suppose its because of the language thing that we get on with them better than any other country.

When wed meet them wed always stop for a chat and listen to their stories. Most of the time, though, in the evening wed be resting because wed be tired from the days training. The training camp was in the middle of nowhere so I was reading a bit of Ricky Hattons book and also Lance Armstrongs.

Armstrong was so mentally strong the way he came back and hes a sportsman I really admire. That mental toughness he had was unbelievable and in boxing mental preparation is half the battle.

Its coming more and more into our preparation in a big way now. A fella called Gerry Hussey has been working with the High Performance Unit and we do a lot of visualisation and positive thinking exercises.

I have a lot of my best fighting clips downloaded onto my Ipod and whenever I need a lift I watch them. We also use trigger songs and words to get into the right frame of mind. Gerry wasnt with us in France but hell be coming out to Russia and then onto Beijing. This week were back in Ireland and I have a club show in my home club (St Michaels Athy) on Friday night.

My coach (Dom ORourke) has a spar lined up for me with a Scottish boxer and the night will give me a chance to meet all the lads from the club as well as people from home (Mullingar) and Athy I know before I leave for Russia for more training and sparring and then onto Beijing.

Im feeling good and hopefully the eye will be cleared up by Friday so I can put on a good show for everyone thats supporting me.

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