Aussie Boxing team picks Griffith for Tokyo preparations

Australian Boxing team coach Kevin Smith with selected athletes Alex Winwood, Harrison Garside, Caitlin Parker and Skye Nicolson in the gym at Griffith's Gold Coast campus.

Less than two months out from the Tokyo Games, the Australian Boxing team is finalising its preparations at Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus, where the elite athletes have been based for the past couple of months.

The team of six, which includes two current Griffith students, is chasing Australia’s first ever boxing Gold.

Bachelor of Business student and Men’s lightweight (63kg) Harrison (Harry) Garside and Education student and Women’s featherweight (57kg) Skye Nicolson have been making the most of Griffith’s world class sporting facilities alongside teammates Alex Winwood, Paulo Aokuso, Justis Huni and Caitlin Parker.

Griffith Business student and Australian Boxing team member Harry Garside

“I feel fantastic and our preparation has been so good as a team,” Harry said.

“I’m super excited as this is my first games and I cannot wait.”

Both Harry and Skye have form, taking home Gold medals in their weight classes at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

They’re very keen to compete in Tokyo, especially considering pandemic impacted preparations and ongoing concerns.

“It’s been a long wait with the extra year due to COVID so I’m just really excited to get over there and get the job done,” Skye added.

“I feel like the gold medal on the Gold Coast in 2018 was definitely just a starting point and I’ve still got a lot to prove. I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve got in Tokyo.”

Team coach Kevin Smith said the entire boxing team had been training hard at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus for two months.

“We’ve been here doing general training but now we’ve moved into a different phase of the training and stepping up the workload,” he explained.

“There are fantastic facilities here on the Gold Coast, with good accommodation, a brilliant running track, the two gym areas that we can use for strength and conditioning and the outdoor pool.”

“The team’s training is going really well (even though) there have been limited opportunities for the athletes to actually compete… because of lockdowns in different states and the outbreaks of Coronavirus.

“That’s been the biggest difference in what we would normally expect in a in a build up to a major benchmark event.”

The boxing team will depart Australia shortly for altitude training in Colorado before landing in Tokyo to slug it out with the world’s best.

“We’ve got a strong, experienced team and its looking good,” Coach Kevin Smith said.

Life after representative sport

Griffith Education student and Australian Boxing team member Skye Nicolson

Both Skye and Harry hope to turn pro after their representative careers but also have longer-term career goals and are committed to completing their studies around athletic commitments to prepare for life after boxing.

“Griffith Sports College has been so accommodating and supportive of my sporting endeavours and helping me work around my uni and training.

“It’s been really beneficial to me to have a uni that understands how important how important my sporting is to me (and) it’s so important to always have a plan because sport isn’t forever and you’ve got to have that backup and something there for when your sporting career ends.

“I’m really glad that I’m doing that with Griffith.”

Harry admits he never expected to go to university and is the first in both his family and his wider community to do so.

“I started studying (Business) at Griffith last year so it’s good to be on campus and live a bit of the uni life,” he said.

“I have deferred this trimester based on the Olympics, but I can’t wait to get back up here and get back into the uni lifestyle.

“They’ve looked after me so much here at Griffith – I’m doing business with a major of sports management and behavioural science and the dream job would be to be a CEO of a sports organisation.

“I understand I’m not going to finish uni and (straight away) do that, but I really want to help athletes achieve greatness.”

Involved in research

During their Games preparations, the team has also contributed to new Griffith research looking at ways combat athletes can punch with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

“We’re interested in how different training levels of boxing athletes and combat sport athletes can strike a target with maximum force and speed across three different distances and work out what we can learn from the elite guys that could help them in the future, but also help the developing athletes come through the ranks,” Project supervisor Jonathon Headrick said.

“I think the results that come from these tests will definitely help transform the whole sport and transform the way boxing is taught,” Skye said.

The research is ongoing and will include sessions with combat athletes at various fitness levels.