This article first appeared on Irish-boxing.com in January of last year but is extremely relevant this week.
The answer to a difficult conundrum is a simple one, points out Zaur Anita.
When it comes to picking who should represent Ireland at the Olympic qualifiers it’s as easy as ‘the best has to go’.
With Paris 2024 just over a year away the race to become #1 at Olympic weights and thus earn the right to represent Ireland at Olympic qualifiers has begun.
It’s down to Anita and his team at the High Performance to determine who wins these races and select the boxer they feel best equipped in each weight category.
The fact that Ireland can’t send a fighter at each weight and the abundance of talent at Ireland’s disposal makes that a very difficult process – but ultimately it comes down to who deserves it most and who is best positioned to bring Olympic success to the team.
Antia admits it’s not an ideal scenario and is aware there will be critics of nigh on every choice made, but is content the High Performance set up have set up a structure that enables them to make the right choice.
“The plan is to let them challenge and select the best,” he responds in a calm fashion when speaking to Irish-boxing.com about what is always a contentious subject.
“It’s not easy but we have a plan. We have assessments in place, there are competitions as well where we can do a ranking system as well. The bottom line is we have to select the best and they know this. The best has to go.
“It’s very difficult. We have a system, there are criteria they have to meet, assessment criteria, which are all the points they have to reach. That system means the fighters will be able to see that whoever we pick is 100 per cent the right person.”
With a system in place and clearly explained to each Olympic hopeful the respected coach claims the responsibility is now with each individual fighter to choose from the selectors.
“The fighters have to meet this challenge and we, as coaches, we have to help them. We would love them all to go to the Olympics but we can’t change the situation.”
Selection for any tournament always sparks big debate, making it a difficult task at the best of times. However, it’s all the more difficult this time around due to the mix of weight categories and depth of talent in the country.
Antia uses the talent in the women’s ranks to highlight as much. Between 60kg and 75kg Ireland boasts the reigning Olympic Champion, two reigning World Champions, a European silver medal winner and a European gold medallist – all of whom have proved they are world-class operators capable of Olympic success.
However, only 60kg, 66kg and 75kg will be contested in Paris, meaning a number of medal-winning stars won’t be on the plane.
“Can you imagine Kellie Harrington at 60kg, Amy Broadhurst at 63kg, Lisa O’Rourke for example at 70kg and Lisa O’Rourke at 75kg? If there was a full deck of weights for the Olympics how happy would we be? But what can we do? There are less weights at the Olympics.”
Antia also refuted suggestions that the High Performance will push fighters toward certain weights going into the Olympic selection process.
“These boxers are all senior boxers they have to decide [what weight they want to compete at]. That is their decision they are adults. All we have to do is give them the opportunity to show their best and compete, then whoever is the best will get the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.”