Boxing: High Five delight as Katie secures gold
IT was high-fives all round for Katie Taylor on Saturday night after she claimed her fifth European senior title in a row with her fifth win in six days in Rotterdam.
A 10-5 decision over Russia's two-time World champion Sofya Ochigava secured a 12th major international gold medal for the Bray woman, who is also the reigning World and EU lightweight champion.
Saturday's verdict was sweet revenge for the 25-year-old, who was controversially adjudged to have lost to the Russian southpaw at the Usti nad Labem Grand Prix in the Czech Republic in March 2010.
Ochigava was handed an 8-1 verdict from that semi-final -- a decision which suggested that at least two of the five ringside judges might have benefited from an appointment with Specsavers.
Taylor, who led 1-0 after the first round of this 60kg contest courtesy of a flashing right early in the round, resisted the temptation to engage with Ochigava in the second frame and picked off her shots to lead 4-1 by the end of the round.
The third frame was another cagey affair. However, Taylor, once again showing remarkable composure, patiently build on her advantage en route to a unprecedented haul of European gold medals for an Irish athlete.
Taylor's dad and coach, Peter, who was working Ireland's corner along with Zuar Antia and Damien Walsh in Rotterdam, reckoned that they got their tactics spot-on.
"We studied all of Ochigava's fights out here this week and the important thing was that Katie remained patient," he said.
"The Russian girl wanted her to come forward but Katie stayed composed and implemented the tactics.
"We had to hold her back at one stage as she wanted to go for her, but that would have played into her hands."
Taylor, who was part of a nine-strong Irish squad at the championships, said: "Sofya is one of the best opponents I have ever met and I'm absolutely thrilled with the win. I can't believe it really.
"Obviously, we are rivals inside the ring, but we really get on very well outside the ring. She's a lovely person as well as fantastic boxer.
"It's always a great feeling to win. In fact, it gets better every time. There was a lot of pressure on me going into this tournament and that pressure was there all week.
"I would like to thank my dad and the other coaches.Without them I wouldn't have done it because you need world-class coaches in your corner when you're boxing world-class opponents.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it without God, either. All the glory from this victory goes to God.
"It is very demanding mentally to have five fights in six days. Each day you have to pick yourself up mentally for a new contest and a new challenge, but that's where my preparation and experience comes in.
"I have competed in quite a lot of major international tournaments and I have the experience of dealing with that pressure now.
"I make sure that I am prepared well and I focus on one fight at a time."
Taylor, who scored 89 points and conceded 30 in her five wins en route to gold, has now beaten all of the top lightweights in the world ahead of the Women's World Championships -- where she'll be aiming for four in a row -- in China next May.
That tournament will act as the only qualifier for next year's Olympic Games.
"I'll take a few weeks off now and then we'll begin to prepare for the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers. That will be the biggest tournament of my life," added Taylor.
Her triumph means that Ireland have won three gold medals at European senior level this year.
Light-heavyweight Joe Ward also beat a Russian opponent in his final, and light-welterweight Ray Moylette won gold at the men's European Championships in Turkey in June.