Monday 9 December 2019

You'll have to ask my dad why he's no longer my coach - Katie Taylor

As Katie Taylor deflects questions about her father she admits her life has not been without challenges, writes Niamh Horan

Katie Taylor with her father Pete Taylor on their return from the 2015 Baku European Games
Katie Taylor with her father Pete Taylor on their return from the 2015 Baku European Games
STRUGGLE: Boxer Katie Taylor says the Olympic Games in Rio this summer will be a lot tougher without her dad, Pete, in her corner. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

All talk of Katie Taylor's shot at another Olympic Gold in Rio this summer has been dominated by the fact that her father, Pete Taylor, will not be coaching in her corner this time round.

His absence as her coach has perplexed boxing fans given that Katie has credited him with being her rock.

For almost 10 years she trained at her dad's gym twice a day, for up to two hours, six days a week. His crucial influence has been widely lauded by the star.

In 2012, she said: "I wouldn't be where I am without my dad. He's a genius." With him, she added, "I always feel like the freshest boxer going into competitions. He's looking for ways for me to improve all the time. I trust everything he says."

So his departure from her coaching team has come as a shock to fans. Last Wednesday afternoon, sitting in the headquarters of Sky Ireland, the Sky Academy Ambassador was keeping schtum on the reasons.

Originally flanked by four media and PR handlers, when asked for a one-on-one chat, her manager insisted on staying in the room.

Growing up in the media spotlight, she has become well-accustomed to answering tough questions.

Does she miss having her dad physically in her corner when she fights?

"Well, I'm lucky to have [national coach] Zaur Antia there. He has always been in my corner," she says. "So I am very, very lucky to have him there. It is great to have the support of everyone around me."

Taylor has previously said her dad still continues to be involved in her preparations.

When asked to elaborate on the extent, she said: "Well, he's my father, so he's still my dad at the end of the day and that's the most important role. He's entitled to take a break. I owe so much to my dad and what he has done for me. And it's hard work doing what he has done, so he's entitled to a break."

Asked if the decision was Katie's or her father's, the sports star responded: "I think you will have to speak to him about that. I'm not going to answer any questions. All I can say is my preparation is going fantastic. And I absolutely love my family and I wouldn't [be anywhere] without them."

Katie is as mentally tough as she is physically strong in the ring. Her willingness to remain open about her fervent Christianity has been mocked by some and, in these secular days, makes others uncomfortable but, she says, "it's not something that really bothers me".

She says it's a privilege to live in a country where there is freedom of speech but she also acknowledges that a strong faith in God seems to be one thing to which people remain closed.

"We are living in a society today where you can talk about everything. Everyone is open to everything except for God, so unfortunately that's the world we are living in today… [some] people get offended when you mention how great God is.

"It's such a shame really because we were known for our country of saints and scholars and we grew up with such a great tradition, with St Patrick, and he is the one who brought Christianity to Ireland and we celebrate St Patrick's day every single year but there's very few practising Catholics or practising Christians."

Like anyone, she has her uncertain moments: "Everyone goes through doubts and fears. If anyone says that they haven't gone through any struggles or setbacks - they are lying, really. There are times in competitions when I have doubted myself or had a few fearful thoughts and that's when I have to cling onto God and cling to the scriptures and to focus on what God is saying and not take every thought captive."

So outside the ring has she ever had her faith shaken? "There are obviously times in my life when I have gone through bad … through struggles," she says. "And that's a part of life. And just because you are Christian doesn't mean you are going to have an easy life. You go through tests and trials just like anybody else. "

So what has been her biggest challenge outside of sport? "Not that I am willing to speak about it any way," she says. "Even as a boxer you go through good or bad days. Nobody is perfect at the end of the day. No family [is perfect]… nobody is perfect."

Katie is heading the Sky Sports Living for Sport schools programme.

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