Aoife O’Rourke’s first shot at qualifying for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics get underway in London on St. Patrick’s Day.
The Castlerea boxer faces Viktoriya Kebikava from Belarus in the last 16 of the 75kg competition at the Copperbox Arena in London. For O’Rourke to realise her Olympic dream and book her ticket to Japan, she must reach the last four.
“I think she’ll do it. She’s in great form from a mental and physical perspective. She’s really looking forward to it,” Paddy Sharkey, O’Rourke’s coach at Castlerea Boxing Club, told the Herald on Monday.
O’Rourke is part of a 13-strong Irish Elite squad that are among 300 boxers from 40 nations taking part in the Toyko qualifiers that got underway “behind closed doors” last weekend.
A total of 77 Olympic places — 50 for men and 27 for women — will be on the line at a tournament expected to match the quality and intensity of a European Elite Championships.
“Aoife will have to be at her best but she’s beaten this girl (Kebikava) previously. She’s well up for it and she’s looking forward to the challenge. I have been chatting to her over there, and she’s in a great place at the minute,” continued Sharkey.
Having been crowned European champion in Madrid last year before going on to secure a bronze medal at the prestigious Strandja Multi-National boxing tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, O’Rourke has all the credentials to come up trumps in London this week.
If things don’t go her way, there will be another chance at the final world qualifiers in Paris next May, although the evolving Covid-19 situation has thrown some uncertainty surrounding those qualifiers into the mix.
“Whatever happens, we’re extremely proud of Aoife here in Castlerea Boxing Club. Everyone is wishing her well this week. She has prepared well and I’m very hopeful she’ll do very well,” concluded Sharkey.