Walsh siblings lead Commonwealth Games gold rush on super Sunday
FROM heartbreak to homecoming heroes, Aidan and Michaela Walsh led yesterday’s gold rush on a super Sunday in Birmingham as the west Belfast siblings swapped silver in Australia for the top of the podium four years on.
Alongside gold medal successes for Dylan Eagleson, Amy Broadhurst and Jude Gallagher, silver for Carly McNaul and bronze for Eireann Nugent, it is Team NI’s best-ever boxing performance at a Commonwealth Games – surpassing the achievements of Delhi 12 years ago.
Having suffered the disappointment of final defeat in 2014 and 2018, it was a particularly sweet moment for Michaela, who knelt down and kissed the canvas after defeating rangy Nigerian Elizabeth Oshoba in last night’s featherweight final.
Exiting the NEC Arena to huge applause, she was joined by younger brother Aidan, who bounded down the steps with two bottles of Coke – full fat, no less – to kick-start the celebrations, Walsh-style, for these most professional of amateur boxers.
He was happier for his big sister than for himself and, on a day when Danny Boy was the most popular song inside the NEC Arena, emotions took hold for Michaela’s during her medal ceremony.
“In 2014 I promised my granda I would win gold before he died, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that but I felt that he was there with me today… I finally got it,” said the 29-year-old, who had watched Aidan’s fight from her hotel “doing laps of the room”.
“It’s unbelievable. Seeing Aidan win earlier on, I was trying not to get emotional, that was something I dreamed of for him, but to do it together, it’s… there’s no words to describe the feeling.”
Walsh said before the Games that she felt there was a part of her “missing” – at long last, that void has been filled.
“I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded, at times I thought ‘is this for me?’. But I had a dream and I just stuck with it. I’m dedicated to the sport, I live the right life along with Aidan… you can ask anyone on the team how professional we are.
“If you saw when my hand was raised, it was if like something lifted out of me. It was unfinished business - I was trying not to focus too much on that, but there was a piece of me missing.
“I knew I was Commonwealth champion before this started, to go out there and do it – and to do it with my brother… it’s phenomenal.”
For Aidan, meanwhile, it was also one step further than four years ago when, as a 21-year-old new to the international stage, he came up short against England’s experienced Pat McCormack.
This time around, the Olympic bronze medallist came through the tougher side of the draw, defeating European champion Harris Akbar and European silver medallist Garan Croft on the way to yesterday’s light-middleweight decider.
And Walsh downed Mozambique’s tough Tiago Muxanga in the first round of a comprehensive win to get the job done.
“Since the Olympics I haven’t really done much so it’s good to be back and back to winning ways. Through the tournament I fought the best and I did alright, thank God.
“But a medal doesn’t define who you are as a person. I want to be a good person, and if I’ve inspired young people coming through, anything I can do to help people… it’s your values as a person.
“Anybody can win fights but not everybody can be a good person, and that’s what means the most to me.”
Asked about his future, with the 2024 Paris Olympics now looming on the horizon, Walsh was giving little away.
“Who knows what the next few months hold? I don’t know.
“I’ll do a bit of fishing this week and then think about it. They say ‘how do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans’. I just want to enjoy this.
“If the Olympics is there, it’s there and if it’s not, it’s not.”