Skye Nicolson was born to fight for Australia
Skye Nicolson tells Grantlee Kieza of her joy at qualifying for next year's Olympic Games, a role she was born to take.
Your rise to the Australian Olympic team is one of the most beautiful stories in sport. Your parents had you late in life after their sons Jamie and Gavin were killed in a car accident. Jamie was an Olympic boxer and now you are, too?
I feel I've grown up learning about Jamie's boxing success and the fact he went to the Olympics in 1992. Now I'm on the same amazing journey as a brother I never met. it's a pretty cool feeling.
Even though Jamie died before you were born people say you have a very similar fighting style?
I watched all the home videos of him growing up but I didn't see anything of him actually boxing until I was an adult. I found some videos in the library at the Australian Institute of Sport of him fighting and that was amazing. It was weird watching him because I box just like he did. It's pretty crazy considering I had never seen him boxing when I was growing up.
How do you describe your style?
I'm an evasive counter-boxer, a southpaw like Jamie (leading with the right hand). My signature punch would be my check hook but in saying that I've really been trying to add to my game and not fight the same every time. The world knows who I am now and the other fighters are studying me and coming in with game plans to beat me so I have to keep changing.
Your parents, Allan and Pat, have been mainstays of Queensland boxing for decades. They must be so proud. For their daughter to became an Olympian almost 30 years after their son is astonishing?
I think have the proudest parents in the world, hands down. I'm very lucky they've been so supportive from the start. When I was 12 I started boxing but female boxing then was virtually non-existent. Still my parents supported everything that I wanted to do.
Your mum and dad have the Albert Boxing Club in their backyard at Yatala. But you weren't a regular for a long time?
I basically started going there in the Christmas holidays between grades seven and eight to get fit for high school. I was very active as a kid but I never found any sport that I was overly good at until I found my groove in boxing.
Boxing is a rough sport. Aren't you worried you'll end up with a broken nose or cut eyes?
It's in the back of your mind but I figure there's a risk with lots of sports. I've had 140 fights and I haven't had any serious injuries, touch wood. No broken noses. I've had maybe two or three black eyes in 12 years of boxing so I can't really complain.
You won the 57kg gold medal at the Commonwealth Games before your home crowd on the Gold Coast. Your trainer Wayne Tolton must be doing a great job.
He is. I had a lot of pressure on me to win the gold medal. When I did, it was more of a feeling of relief than the happiness feeling you would expect. But it was already so exciting being my first Games and at home. To win the gold medal was the cherry on top.
What do you do when you're not boxing?
I'm studying part time for a Bachelor of Public Relations and Communications at Griffith University. I love it. The course takes a back seat to boxing at the moment but it also gives me something else to focus on so that boxing doesn't become all consuming.
How do the social distancing rules affect your preparations for the Olympics?
I can still do pretty much everything except partner work, sparring or punching-pad work. I'm hitting the bag, shadow-boxing, skipping. I can still do body weight exercises and go for a jog. I'm just keeping the body moving until we see what happens next. We could still be months away from competition.
You've trained half your life with an eye to emulating your brother as an Olympian. How did you feel when at last you qualified for the Games team?
It honestly didn't feel real for days. I just kept waiting to wake up like it was a dream. The whole coronavirus thing put a dark cloud over it for a while but I'm so grateful and happy that I've got that part of the job done and I can solely focus on the Olympics and getting a podium finish there.
You must have been gutted when there was talk that the Games might be cancelled?
It was a really scary few days. The first news was that Australia wouldn't send a team even if the Olympics went ahead. It was such a relief when the Games were rescheduled for next year. I'm focusing on the positives. So far I'm one of the only ones in my weight division who has qualified - so already knowing that gives me extra time to prepare without the stress of still having to make the Games. I feel I'm in a much better position than a lot of my competition.
You made the Olympic team by taking bronze at the recent qualifying event in Jordan?
Yes, I lost in the semi-finals to the World No. 1 Lin Yu-ting from Chinese Taipei. She had already beaten me at the World Championships in Russia last year so I knew I was in for a tough fight.
What can you do to win your next fight with her?
That's the million-dollar question. She's definitely a hard one to crack - very tall and rangy and very strong. In Jordan, I gave her too much respect and fell into her game plan. But there's not a lot in it and I've got 16 months to get ready to beat her at the Olympics.
Originally published as Boxer Skye's got no limit