Fresh from representing Ireland in the European Games in Baku, DCU’s own Céire Smith is aiming to go one better and represent her country in next year’s Olympic Games in Brazil.
The 23-year-old student missed out on a medal in Baku, Azerbaijan, but described the experience of representing her country at the European Games as “an absolute honour.”
Speaking to The College View, Smith said, “It’s definitely been the highlight out of any tournament I’ve been to, it was just breathtaking, a small taster of what the actual Olympics will be like.”
Despite missing out on a medal, losing at the quarter final stage to the European number two Saiana Sagataeva (Russia) in a split decision, Smith saw the positives. “I had to qualify to get to Baku so I knew only the best of the best were going to be there.
“I wasn’t a little disappointed – I was absolutely gutted but it was a fantastic experience.” Smith said.
After her display in Baku, the Cavan woman is hopeful about her chances of making it to Brazil next summer; “I am confident, I have nationals in November, I have to maintain my national senior title to go to the world qualifiers in Kazakhstan in January.”
Only the top four Europeans in the world qualifiers make the Olympics and after missing out on London 2012 at the final hurdle, Smith is determined not to let that happen this time around.
Since Baku, Smith has competed in the Felix Stamm Multinationals in Poland where she came away with a silver medal, beating the AIBA World number one Marlen Esparza of the USA along the way.
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old she was edged out in the final by Poland’s Sandra Drabik on a split decision.
“I thought I’d done enough but boxing the home girl and losing on a split decision, there’s not much more you can do.” Smith said.
Beating the number one seed in the tournament was a massive boost in confidence, she explained; “She was my first fight, it was my luck to get the best girl in the first fight but when I won it was a huge confidence booster.
“My semi-final was probably my toughest fight, it was very technical and I was against a clever boxer.”
Overall, Smith felt it was a beneficial competition for her; “Good girls, good competition, four days, four fights.”
In preparation for Rio, Smith has deferred her third year in DCU so she can concentrate more on her boxing after finding the balance between training and college to be a tough one in her first two years.
“I was trying to fit in two training sessions a day and some days I was in college from nine ‘til five, you’re going to class wrecked and then you’re coming home and falling asleep, so it’s very hard to balance everything.” The Sports Science student said.
“I had been giving 40 percent in college when I should have been giving 100 percent.” she added.
Smith is trained by Billy Walsh and Zaur Antia and was full of praise for her coaches.
“Straight up-front I would not have performed as well in Baku or at the Felix Stamm Multinationals only for the amount of work Billy Walsh put in with me”, the Cavan native explained.
“I finished my exams in DCU in the summer and I went straight to the (National) Stadium to train with Billy.
“It’s a great peace of mind when you go into a fight with the World Number One and know that you have the best coach giving you the best advice in the corner.”
Smith was speaking to The College View just before flying out to Assisi, Italy for a training camp with the men’s elite team. “It’s the men’s team’s preparation; they’re flying straight from there to Doha (Qatar) for the World Championships.
“Its very good preparation for me”, the 23-year-old added.
Unfortunately for Smith there is not a great level of competition within Ireland in her weight division so she is forced to spar with some of Ireland’s leading male boxers.
“You could go and box a novice but you’re not learning anything. I get to move around with the best guys, Paddy Barnes and Brendan Irvine so they test me to my maximum.
“Sometimes you get very frustrated thinking you’re not progressing at all but you have to realise Paddy Barnes is a two time Olympic champion and Brendan Irvine won silver at Baku”, Smith said.
“I really am moving around with the best guys, it’s been very helpful for me”, the Flyweight added.
As a female boxer Céire Smith is constantly compared to Ireland’s greatest ever female boxer Katie Taylor and says she is full of admiration for the fighter who brought home gold at London 2012.
“Katie is an absolutely fantastic athlete. I get on very well with Katie and I look up to her massively”, Smith said.
“What she has achieved is just outstanding, I don’t think anybody will reach that level, it will be a long time before you see a female boxer like her.
“Everybody knows Katie Taylor, what they don’t realise is it’s not just in Ireland she’s well recognised, she’s well recognised across the world, people nearly know more of her abroad than in Ireland.” Smith said.
While the road to Rio began a long time ago for Céire in terms of training, the first step to getting there is the National Elite Female Boxing Championships which take place at the National Stadium, Dublin in November.
Should she successfully defend her Flyweight title, she will represent Ireland in the World Qualifiers in Kazakhstan next January where she needs to be one of the top four European fighters in her weight to make next summer’s Olympics.
If all goes well for the DCU student she may return for her third year of college this time next year as an Olympic champion.
Image Credit: Sportsfile