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|Trio of women cap golden day for Olympic boxing sport|
|Thursday, 09 August 2012 21:24|
LONDON (Reuters) - With panache, power and proficiency, Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields and Nicola Adams claimed the first women's Olympic boxing titles to cap an absorbing tournament that surprised many and left their male counterparts in the shade.
Rejected by the Olympic movement for years because of a perceived lack of global interest, women's boxing punched above its weight at the London Games and yesterday’s finalists gave it a showcase organisers could only have dreamed of.
British flyweight Adams produced the shock, teenage American middleweight Shields the pure force, while the darling of the crowd at the ExCel arena, Ireland's lightweight Katie Taylor, confirmed her place at the top of the fledgling sport.
It was an engrossing end to an event which knocked down the last piece of gender inequality at the Summer Games.
"It is a huge responsibility but it is a privilege to be here in this position," Taylor, a four-time world champion who was at the forefront of the campaign to get women to the Olympics, told a news conference.
"Hopefully I am a great role model. I have tried my best to be a great model for girls watching on TV and aspiring to be an Olympic champion and a medallist. This is what they have to look forward to."
While some wondered whether women's boxing would merely be a novelty in London and others questioned their place in the ring - notably the great amateur boxing nation Cuba which refused to send fighters - there can be little doubt that their entry into the Olympic family was a great success.
They sat and waited as the men bickered and brawled their way through eight days of controversial competition before they took to the ring.
Their arrival proved a welcome distraction for organisers AIBA who had been swamped with refereeing issues having been forced to ban judges and dismiss scorers after the men repeatedly appealed against the results of bouts.
Only one of the women's fights was questioned, and Olympic officials said more than twice as many journalists filled the media seats when women boxed.
They were allowed just 36 competitors compared to the men's 250, but their four sessions were among the best half dozen.
Olympic boxing's governing body will press the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to increase its quota of female competitors for the 2016 Games and its president told the crowd shortly before the finals that their request would be ambitious.
"The boxers are all heroes, they have a very important role in the history of AIBA (International Boxing Association)," said Wu Ching-kuo, the head of world amateur boxing.
"This competition has three weight categories, the next Olympic Games we hope to double that at least."
Wu told Reuters this week that having watched women box for years as he pushed for their inclusion at the Olympics, he was not surprised by the high standard they produced when they finally made their bow.
But he might not have expected to have three gold medallists who have the ingredients to further raise the sport's profile.
Taylor was always likely to receive a lot of attention. Spoken of in respected tones by her opponents, she stunned seasoned boxing journalists with some standout skills.
The compliment most often handed to the former international soccer player, who said on Thursday that she had another 10 years in her, was that "she fought like a man".
Adams, who in shocking three-time world champion China's Ren Cancan became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title, did it in swashbuckling style.
With Britain's record medal haul already sure to kickstart interest in sport among captivated school children, part-time actress Adams will hope to convince some of them to choose the boxing ring over the running or cycling track.
In boxing's homeland of America, for whom Shields delivered a 49th Olympic gold medal, they could not write a better story than the 17-year-old all-action fighter's rags to riches tale.
Shields, mature way beyond her years, no doubt spoke for every women's boxer when asked what the London Games meant.
"I don't think there is going to be anybody who watched the women's Olympics saying that women can't box because they have seen me get down," the confident Shields said.
"I think more women are going to come to the sport. I think the women who weren't able to get into the Olympics are proud of me."
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