Lausanne, Switzerland, September 27, 2013 – With the opening of the Road to Almaty training camp now imminent, we take a look back at the impact of the Road to Dream program to date.
For several years now, AIBA has delivered one of the most pioneering sports development programs in the world. The AIBA Road to Dream Program offers athletes and coaches from underprivileged and developing boxing countries the opportunity to attend intensive two week training camps in the build-up to major AIBA competitions such as the World Championships.
AIBA provides each participant with airline tickets, accommodation, food and drink, full training facilities with equipment, training kits, gloves and headgear, full medical and massage services as well as covering insurance, visa expenses and local transportation.
“As one of AIBA’s Development Projects, the Road to Dream Program follows the ideals of the Olympic Movement by contributing to the social improvement of boxers, and the dream of being competitive at AIBA’s main international competitions and the Olympic Games”, explains Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, AIBA President.
“It is also a tool to educate the boxers and help them to fight against violence, poverty, illiteracy and any other social problem in their country.”
In a sporting sense, the principle is very simple. By bringing these already talented athletes and coaches together in one place, they can share knowledge, and technical expertise with each other. At the same time they enjoy the mentorship of an experienced international head coach for the duration of the camp. Not only does this improve the standard of the boxers and coaches concerned, but upon returning home, the information acquired is then shared with other members of the national team and federation. In this way the AIBA Road to Dream incrementally helps improve the standard in developing boxing nations around the world as well as supporting talented athletes from those countries achieve their full potential.
In the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, AIBA held eight such training camps. Starting in Milan before the Men’s World Championships in 2009 with 86 boxers from 67 countries, the program continued through 2010 in Azerbaijan for the Youth World Championships (43 boxers from 24 countries) and Barbados for the Women’s Worlds (29 boxers from 19 countries). In 2011 the now highly refined initiative went to Antalya, Turkey (23 boxers, 13 countries). The Road to Antalya produced three medallists at the maiden Women’s Junior/Youth World Championships including the young Vietnamese boxer Thi Vy Vuong. Later a further twenty boxers trained in the Road to Astana camp in conjunction with the Junior Worlds, before the year was wrapped up with the Road to Baku, in Azerbaijan prior to the 2011 World Championships.
It was here that the Road to Dream program had one of its best successes to date with Lithuanian boxer Egidijus Kavaliauskas taking a bronze medal at the World Championships, thus also securing a place for himself in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Just before the 2012 Games, two final camps were held in Cardiff, Wales. The first took place just before the Continental Olympic Qualifying Events and featured 62 athletes from 40 countries. The final event was an intensive three week long camp featuring 44 boxers from under-privileged countries who successfully qualified for the Games.
In an interview at the time, Head Coach Tom Coulter (USA) explained the philosophy that he used with the athletes in that final camp:
“Effectively, we try to give them every aspect of training that will help them in the competition. For example a lot of coaches use long distance running as training and we know that that is not what boxers need. Long distance is aerobic but boxing is an anaerobic sport so we give them a lot of interval training and sprint work. It’s the same on the heavy bag, we use speed drills for the hands that they wouldn’t normally use. We also control the sparring so that we put boxers of equal ability together, allowing them to train hard without the risk of injury. We also try to make them feel good and tell them all the things that they are doing well because it is too late [just weeks before the Olympic Games] to change the things they are doing wrong. Positive psychology is important at this stage.”
The strategy worked. In London, Youth Olympic Games winner and AIBA Road to London Program member Evaldas Petrauskas claimed Lithuania’s first ever Olympic boxing medal whilst Tajikistan also secured its first ever boxing medal as 19-year-old Asian Champion Mavzuna Chorieva took bronze in the women’s Lightweight (60kg) category.
Gambia boxing coach Peter A Gomez agreed that there are benefits to the program: “This is a big opportunity offered by AIBA because some countries like Gambia and Senegal don’t have the facilities. AIBA has created this program in part to help the poor countries develop [in boxing]”.
In Almaty, the first camp on the Road to Rio, 56 boxers and 18 coaches are expected from all over the world including countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kosovo and Palestine. They will be training between September 28 and October 11 under Head Coach Tom Coulter with the assistance of Inho Cheon (Korea), Christie Halbert (USA) and two local Kazakh coaches (Talgat Berdybekov and Zhumabek Omurzakov).
“It is AIBA’s mission to help boxers from emerging countries by contributing to the improvement of their social conditions”, ensures Dr Wu. “The Road to Dream Program has already shown good results but it will show many more in the next few years. AIBA is fully committed to the development of the sport of boxing equally in every corner of the globe. This program, going hand in hand with the planned World Boxing Academy, demonstrates AIBA’s commitment to achieving these goals”.