By Rob McCracken: TWELVE months ago, no-one could have predicted the situation in which we find ourselves today.
Instead of preparing for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympic Games, we are training at the GB Boxing gym in Sheffield with coaches in personal protective equipment (PPE) and boxers wearing face masks.
The Coronavirus outbreak has been a significant challenge and, like the rest of the country, GB Boxing has had to adapt the way we go about our work.
Our coaches and staff did an amazing job of supporting the boxers through lockdown, helping them to stay fit and continuing to provide coaching and support via Zoom training sessions.
We have now been back in the gym for just over one month.
Contact training has been re-introduced and it feels like we are getting back to where we want to be.
The boxers and coaches are all enjoying being back and the atmosphere in the gym is fantastic.
We are aware that the situation with Covid-19 is far from over and it has been a major disruption to the plans we had in place.
But it is important to try and take the positives from this situation and though no-one would ever have chosen this to happen, the lockdown and its aftermath has given us time to reflect on what we have and make new plans for the future.
12 months ago, when people asked for my thoughts on the status of the world class performance programme with one year to go until Tokyo, I was cautiously optimistic.
At that point we had a strong group of talented and experienced men that had a track record of winning medals at major competitions.
The women’s squad was a newer group. And though talented, they did not quite have the medal winning pedigree of the men’s squad.
Today the situation is different.
The men have continued to go from strength-to-strength and enjoyed more success in the course of 2019, most notably when the team returned from the 2019 world championships in Moscow with three medals – our best performance at that event since 2011.
The men are a battle hardened group of talented boxers. And although some of them were understandably disappointed to have to wait for 12 more months, the fact that none of the men have been lured to the professional ranks shows they are as committed as ever to representing Team GB in Tokyo.
The women have had an equally positive last 12 months. We have seen some new talents emerge while some of our more experienced boxers have made a significant step-up and can now be considered top-class international boxers.
The make-up of the five female boxers we selected for the Olympic Qualifier in March 2020 illustrated this.
The team featured two exciting new additions in Charley Davison and Caroline Dubois, who both went on to win their first bouts at the qualifier (before it was suspended on day two owing to the Coronavirus situation).
Alongside them was the current world champion, Lauren Price, and Karriss Artingstall, who enjoyed the best 12 months year of her career in 2019 when she won silver at the European championships and bronze at the worlds.
The fact we now have an additional 12 months to work with this group of men and women is a big positive for the Olympic boxing programme.
At GB Boxing we are fortunate to have some of the best coaches in the world and giving our boxers another year to develop and work with them can only benefit their development and improve their chances of being successful in Tokyo in 2021.
This is particularly the case for the less experienced boxers in our squad and I expect to see them develop significantly between now and next July.
The postponement of the Olympic Games by one year is not a situation we ever expected to find ourselves in but having come through the challenges of lockdown we can now see the positives.
And as we look forward to the 2021 Olympics, I am confident that as long as our boxers continue to work hard and develop that we can deliver yet more success for Team GB when the Games finally get underway.