Irish boxing chief defends Amy Broadhurst's exclusion as 10 athletes qualify for Paris Olympics

Amy Broadhurst
-Credit: (Image: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Patricia Heberle, Director of Performance for Irish boxing, has defended the selection policy that caused some controversy in recent months after a record 10 fighters qualified for the Paris Olympics. Former world boxing champ Amy Broadhurst swapped her allegiance to Team GB in what ultimately resulted in an unsuccessful bid to qualify in the final tournament in Bangkok.

This came after she was passed over for Grainne Walsh in the 66kg weight category. There was also a hint of controversy brewing in Wexford, as national champion Dean Walsh was overlooked in favour of Aidan Walsh, a bronze medallist at the Tokyo Games who spent much of last year on the bench due to injury but secured his Paris ticket in a box-off match last Sunday.

Plenty of chatter arose on social media around these selection issues, with Broadhurst expressing that she was "completely devastated" to be overlooked after competing in the first qualifying tournament - the European Games - just last year, and being just one win away from securing her spot in Paris. Grainne Walsh was selected ahead of Broadhurst for the second and third qualifying tournaments in Milan and Bangkok, reports the Irish Mirror.

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However, the Tullamore fighter missed out narrowly on qualification in Milan and was chosen for the last-chance qualifiers, ending in successful triumph last Sunday. Before joining Team GB, Broadhurst hinted at exploring every possible option to "keep that dream alive", adding: "The Olympic flame continues to burn brightly in me and I am determined to do everything in my power to become an Olympian."

The IABA's high-performance director, Heberle, voiced: "I like to post on Twitter myself, but I'm not a great one for social media and the boxing sites. I have a look every now and then but the key thing for me is not to be distracted. My job is to keep that bigger picture view of what we're trying to achieve and I just keep bringing myself back to 'we're trying to qualify eight athletes and win three medals at the Olympic Games'."

Pertaining to criticism, Heberle added: "But everyone's human. Yeah there was noise, but in this world we're allowed to have different opinions on things, and also we probably have different recollections of things that happen."

On handling selection issues, she remarked: "I'm very pleased with how we handled it, because we basically handled it by the jurisdiction I have as the chair of the selection panel."

Discussing challenges faced by his team, Heberle emphasized: "We have things we have to do. Elite sport is not fair, and lots of kids have Olympic dreams. Olympic dreams aren't exclusive to one athlete, and, yeah, there was an empathy for Amy because she was one of our athletes.

"But you just can't be distracted. We have to be bigger than that, and I have to keep reiterating that message to keep my staff focused because they're all humans and often things are put out which are completely incorrect. But what's the point of going there? Amy Broadhurst is a British athlete, and I'll keep saying that the only athletes I'm interested in are the people in front of me, and they're all wearing green."

Heberle acknowledged that selection has been "quite challenging" saying: "We've had criticism and obviously there have been individual athlete agendas that have been at play. We tried to manage that professionally and to never lose sight of what is important - and that's the athletes in front of us that are doing the right things and that we believe can deliver under pressure."

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