Aidan Walsh’s Olympic medal won’t be put aside for safekeeping.
In fact the Tokyo bronze medal winner is going to take the opposite approach with the precious metal.
The 24-year-old knows the power of such a trinket and the motivating effect it can have for young aspiring athletes. The Monkstown Matador was himself was inspired by seeing the likes of Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes’ Olympic success – and getting up close and personal with their medals.
Those interactions helped him dream and he is keen to let the kids of Belfast and his club do the same.
“It’s going to be amazing,” he says of going back to his club with his medal.
“You look all the other years with boxers from Belfast coming back to their towns, to their clubs with a medal, like. It’s just crazy that I’m one of them now. I can’t wait, honestly. I can’t wait for them to hold it, feel it, see themselves that nothing is impossible. I always remember looking and seeing other people’s medals and thinking, ‘That’d be great.’ But there’s nothing stopping anybody from doing it.
“Everyone is talented at something but you have to put in the work and if you’re willing to put in the work, the sky is the limit for ya. I’ll give it to kids in the community: they can take it away for the night if they want it and put it under their pillow and dream about it. Because you have to dream — that’s exactly what I’ve done. No secrets or nothing. Just dream, keep dreaming, never stop dreaming.”
Walsh’s is certainly a dream big and keep believing poster boy.
Going into 2019 it looked a straight shootout between Kieran Molloy and Paddy Donovan for Olympic qualifying pole at welterweight.
Galway’s Molloy looked most likely when he defeated the Limerick man in the first final of 2019 and ‘The Real Deal’ turned pro.
However, Walsh staged a Tokyo assault, taking advantage of being invited into the High-Performance setup, was sent to the World Championships and won the next National Elite Championships.
As a result, he was sent to European qualifiers – and notes how he was a relative unknown on the world state going to London first and then the rescheduled tournament in Paris.
“It’s incredible. I have to pinch myself because I’ve just come so far in such a short period of time. I’ve always obviously been training behind the scenes but all I needed was the opportunity. My club, Monkstown, and my coach Paul Johnston helped me massively. Then, going to Dublin, the Irish High Performance gave me an opportunity and sent me to the World Championships.
“But even there before the European [Olympic] qualifiers, I don’t think I was even in the world rankings at all. I remember seeing a photo — I think it was of the top 40 — and my name wasn’t even in it. Obviously, world rankings don’t set anything in stone for you but I remember going, ‘I’m not even in the top 40.’ God knows where I am now but I’d like to think I’m a wee bit up the ladder, anyway.”