And then there were FIVE.
Aoife O’Rourke secured Olympic status in Paris tonight to join Kellie Harrington, Kurt Walker, Brendan Irvine and [if Irish-boxing.com’s calculations are right]Michaela Walsh on the plane to Tokyo.
The 23-year-old showed massive majurity and courage to come from behind to eventually defeat the #4 seed Elzbieta Wojik of Poland.
The Pole won the first round of the pairs second high stakes clash – O’Rourke beat Wojik to win European Championship gold in 2019 – but O’Rourke had the bravery to completely change her style and fought rather than boxed her way to the Olympics.
A point deduction for Wojik in the second and a standing eight count in a frantic last played a part in the scoring being wide but ultimatley O’Rourke came through a tough fight by two rounds to one – and is now an Olympian.
O’Rourke was up on her toes bouncing in and out of range landing jabs and long right hands, some looping to the body. However, she was walked onto a number of counter shots, which the judges liked enough to give her the round.
The Connaught native game all out looking to turn things around in the second. The 75kg fighter went regular to the body and was happy to press forward. A point deduction for the Pole then gave O’Rourke real hope as he effectively won the round 10-8.
The desire of both fighters to make it to Tokyo was apparent in the third round. Both came out firing and landed heavy and clean. Possibly noting her opponent was more comfortable at range and with time to pick accurate shots, the Irish fighter pressed the pace in the second half of the round.
The Pole did still show moments of accuracy and class but was tiring and O’Rourke’s body punching started to reap real dividends. Indeed, she managed to land flush and force her foe to take an eight count.
Kellie Harrington secured qualification when she defeated IBF world champion Maiva Hamadouche earlier in the evening session.
George Bates came within inches of qualifying in the afternoon session. The Tallaght fighter was beaten on a 3-2 split decision by former world champ Javid Chalabiyev of Azerbaijan after three tight rounds.
There was no success for the big man in the afternoon session as Kiril Afanasev bowed out to Spain’s Emanual Reyes and Gytis Lisinskas lost to Bulgaria’s Peter Belberov to exit the tournament before they could qualify for the Games.
Emmett Brennan fights Luka Plantic of Croatia later this evening hoping to reach Games.
Two time Olympian Brendan Irvine will be looking to improve his seeding in his contest.