Kristina O'Hara shows her medal after pushing Indian legend Mary Kom all the way
FOR all the doubt that followed her defeat to Ceire Smith in the 2016 Irish Elite final, Kristina O’Hara has proved over the course of the past 10 days that she can mix it with anybody in the world at 48kg.
Losing to Smith in what was only her third fight as a senior boxer led O’Hara a period of introspection and rebuilding, but these Commonwealth Games have seen the 22-year-old announce her arrival on the international stage in emphatic fashion.
She impressed in victories over Lynsey Holdaway from Wales and New Zealand’s Tamsyn Berry, and matched Mary Kom punch for punch in Saturday’s light-fly final before being edged out on the judges’ cards.
There is no shame in losing to a legend of the sport, a five-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist in a higher weight class, yet O’Hara felt she might have done just enough to be coming home with gold.
“I thought I won the first round, the second round she was a bit busier and I thought she won that, then the third I thought I had just done enough at the end to win it,” said the St John Bosco fighter.
“But at the end of the day, she’s a well known athlete, she’s a credit to her country. Fair play to her, I congratulate her and I wish her all the best.
“I’m happy, I feel as the fights went on I got better and better. Today was just a wee bit of a slower pace for me so it was out of my comfort zone, but I thought I had done enough to win.
“I fought hard, I trained hard so I’m happy to be bringing back a silver. I’d rather it was gold but it is what it is. I’m happy enough.”
There had been talk that Saturday’s final could be Kom’s swansong, but the 35-year-old insisted she hopes to be in Tokyo for the next Olympic Games in two years’ time.
"It is very hard to come back but I have not had any injuries and my will-power and mental strength is strong," she said.
"I will try to go to Tokyo if I am still super-fit in another two years. It will be difficult because I will have to move up a weight, but I will try my best."
There was silver too for Carly McNaul after a tough flyweight final against England’s Lisa Whiteside.
The Ormeau Road fighter, nicknamed ‘Wrecking Ball’, has been one of the Team NI stories of the Games, coming in under the radar to blast through two opponents en route to Saturday’s decider.
Gold may have eluded her, but the 28-year-old can look back on a Games where she has done herself, and her family back home, proud.
“I feel great, I’m so happy I got here and I’m overwhelmed… I can’t really describe how I feel,” she said.
“From week one in the training camp I had cars blowing up on me driving up, I had to give up my job, there was just so much.
“This just shows you should never give up on your dreams. You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. Never give up.”