Most college students struggle with early mornings. For some, 9am lectures are just too much. Attendance at these squeamishly early lectures is a bonus rather than a necessity. Céire Smith, however, is no typical college student.
Smith, a student of Sport Science, is preparing to represent DCU at the World University Boxing Championships this October.
She said, “It’s tough going, all right – trying to combine boxing and college. I’m in the gym at six every morning, I get in for lectures at nine and then have to study, as well as doing another evening training session. I deferred college last year to focus on boxing, but I’ll give 100 per cent dedication to my studies as well as sport this year.”
The Cavan flyweight’s busy daily life was mirrored by a hectic summer.
Smith said, “It was a long summer of boxing. There were the Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan and Turkey which I prepared for with a training camp in England. I was also invited to Canada to spar with Mandy Bujold for three weeks, in preparation for the qualifiers, which was a great experience.”
To round off the summer, Smith scooped gold at the Ringside tournament in Kansas City, MO in early August.
Her disappointment at failing to qualify for the Rio De Janeiro Olympics is evident. She was agonisingly beaten by Ukraine’s Tetyana Kob on a split decision in Samsun, Turkey.
Smith’s chance of Olympic redemption was brought to an end by Ingrit Valencia of Colombia, despite having won the first round of the fight on the cards of all three judges. The fact that Valencia went on to win bronze highlights just how close Smith is to the top of the female flyweight division.
Smith, drafted in as a late replacement for Michaela Walsh, rued the lack of notice prior to her fight with Kob. Having already defeated Kob during her career, her frustration at the lack of preparation is clear.
She explained, “I was only given two days’ notice before the fight, so it was impossible to prepare properly.
“There were a number of factors behind the scenes that hindered my chances, which was really disappointing.”
Not one to dwell on the past, she is already looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead as she is proud to be representing DCU at the upcoming World University Boxing Championships.
“Like any other competition, the aim has to be to win gold,” she said, “Thailand is well established as a boxing nation, so there’ll be a lot of good fighters there. You have to take these competitions one round at a time, though.”
To go with her supreme talent, Smith is exceptionally level-headed and refuses to get drawn in to talk about qualifying for the next Olympics in Tokyo.
Smith said, “That’s a long way away. My current aim is to win the European Championship. I’ll review everything at Christmas and then decide what’s the best way to proceed.”
The Cavan girl speaks about her early sporting self in unflattering terms.
She said: “My sister Marianne was the sporty one in the family, whereas I had two left feet. We were both extremely competitive.”
In fact, the pair used to face off on the camogie pitch – Céire lined out for Redhills while Marianne wore the maroon and gold of Castletara.
“When I took up boxing I had no major expectations. I would either fall flat on my face or enjoy it.” The southpaw fighter clearly landed on her feet, rather than her face!
Accompanying Céire to the World Boxing University Championships in Chaing Mai, Thailand as part of the Irish team will be Gary McKenna, Conor Wallace, Kenneth Okungbowa and fellow female fighter, Christine Desmond. Her opening bout takes place on the 3rd of October.
“We’ll arrive on the 1st, and the weigh-ins are on the 2nd,” Smith said, “Making weight is always tough. If you’re 0.01 KG over the mark you can’t compete. I have it under control, it’s just something that needs to be watched every day.”
The timing of the competition is ideal, acting as preparation for the European Championships and Smith is leaving no stone unturned in her attempts to annex gold at both. “The boys are on a break at a moment but I’m currently working on strength and conditioning with the coaches at the High Performance Unit.”
Win or lose, you can be absolutely certain that this determined Ulster woman will leave everything out in the ring.
Image credit: Sportsfile