European bronze medalist Christina Desmond – “nobody even thought we could win medals”

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It’s been a brilliant first year as an elite international for Cork’s Christina Desmond.

The Fr Horgan’s youngster stepped up to middleweight and took a great step into the unknown – and proved that she was right at home on the big stage.

The 20 year old shocked eventual Olympic silver medalist Nouchka Fontijn at the Rio qualifiers in Turkey, before claiming bronze at the World Universities in Thailand and, last week, the European Championships in Bulgaria.

The bronze saw the World Youth silver medalist become just Ireland’s third European women’s medalist (after Katie Taylor and Claire Grace) and fourth ever at the ‘Big Three’ – Worlds, Europeans, Olympics (after Taylor, Grace, and Kelly Harrington).

Desmond herself can scarcely believe how well 2016 has gone, and told Irish-Boxing.com that “stepping up into senior this time last year I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t even think I’d be considered for Olympic Qualification and to do so well in that I was delighted. To win a medal [at the European Championships] was just the topping of the cake – but now it holds a lot more pressure for the years to come, but I can’t wait.

At the tournament in Sofia last week the Rebelette, alongside Ireland’s other three quarter finalists, faced a bronze medal bout with a Russian opponent. Desmond recalls how she was confident going into the clash with Oksana Trofimova, which she would dominate and win, but noted how “Russia will always be a bad draw in my opinion.”

“I knew a small bit about the girl facing me but still did not take anything for granted. I was one fight away from a medal and I wanted it. That was my mentality.”

Desmond’s tournament would end at the semi final stage, losing a split decision to Frenchwoman Maily Nicar, a verdict which is still quite raw, and the Leesider described how “I’ll never understand how she was any way close to getting that fight. I’m in no way a cocky fighter, or a bad loser, I just though I had been the better boxer and the one to land all of the punches, I believe I won the fight hands down.”

“Having said this, I can’t change the decision so I have to go on with my head held high and be proud of my bronze medal.”

It was the first major tournament in over a decade that did not feature Katie Taylor, and one would think that there would be a search to find a new ‘golden girl’ of Irish boxing, so to speak. However Desmond notes how the team were written off by many, and any pressure was internal rather than external. The Cill na Martra puncher feels that “none of us are put anywhere near Katie Taylor’s level to start off, so nobody even thought we could win medals – which is unfair.”

Desmond admitted that “I felt pressure, but it was pressure put on myself, by myself.”

With Olympics, Worlds, Europeans, and Universities, all taking place this year, 2017 looks to be a relatively quiet one for Desmond, who outlines how “I’m not sure whats happening next internationally. but for sure the Elite championships are my main competition coming up. I need to go retain my title!”

“Other than that well have to see.”

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie