Boxing: Triumphant Taylor focused on London
A week that began with an acute sense of anxiety ended in another triumphant parade through Dublin Airport for Katie Taylor yesterday.
Taylor claimed her fourth successive AIBA World title on Saturday after beating Russian southpaw Sofya Ochigava 11-7 in the lightweight final.
You could have cut the tension with a knife last week as anxiety grew that unforeseen circumstances would prevent Taylor from qualifying for London 2012.
However, not only did the Bray BC star book her ticket for the 30th Olympiad and win gold, she also scooped the Best Boxer award at the 70-nation tournament in Qinhuangdao.
The Irish squad of Taylor, Ceire Smith and Sinead Kavanagh also finished in fifth spot in the medals table and in 11th spot -- despite using the smallest squad -- in the rankings table.
Irish team manager Anna Moore said that they were thrilled with Taylor's victory, adding that Cavan BC flyweight Smith and Drimnagh BC middleweight Kavanagh did their country proud.
Taylor (25) has now won an astonishing four World, five European and four European Union titles -- all in a row -- since 2005. Saturday's win was the 129th of her 135-bout career since 2001.
Because she will be seeded No 1 at the Olympics she'll receive a bye into the quarter-finals and will be just one win away from winning at least bronze.
However, the two-time AIBA World female boxer of the year doesn't want a bye. "I'd prefer to get the fight but that's brilliant. I'm delighted to be going into the Olympics as the current world champion. I will improve again over the next few weeks and hopefully I'll come back with that gold medal for my country.
"Every day is planned for me now. I'll train with the other five lads who have qualified for the Olympics. We'll be training together. Hopefully we will be coming home with six medals."
"Katie was absolutely magnificent and Ceire and Sinead also did their country proud.
"To go to China and win yet another gold medal is an incredible achievement," added Tommy Murphy, the president of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
Pete Taylor, who was working his daughter's corner in China along with Georgia-born Zuar Antia, reckons that, pound-for-pound, Taylor Jnr and Ochigava are the top two.
"I believe that Katie and the Russian girl are the two best female boxers in the world in all weight categories at the moment to tell the truth," he said.
"I think this was her best win as there was so much quality out there and so much at stake in China. It's unbelievable to do it four times. I don't think an Irish athlete will ever do it again."
IABA director of boxing Dominic O'Rourke added: "Katie was fantastic, absolutely fantastic. Ceire had two brilliant wins and Sinead gave it everything."
Taylor, Ochigava, England's Natasha Jonas, Tunisia's Rim Jouni, Brazil's Adriana Arajuo, Tajikistan's Mavzuna Chorieva, Kazakhstan's Saida Khassenova and New Zealand's Alexis Pritchard qualified for the Olympics in China.
In total, 12 boxers will compete in the female lightweight category at London 2012. Four invitation places will be distributed via the Tripartite Commission to Africa, America, Asia, and Europe in the coming weeks.
WHO will TAYLOR FACE?
Qualified for Olympics -- Europe: Katie Taylor (Ireland), Sofya Ochigava (Russia), Natasha Jonas (England). Africa: Rim Jouni (Tunisia). America: Adriana Arajuo (Brazil). Asia: Mavzuna Chorieva (Tajikistan), Saida Khassenova (Kazakhstan). Oceania: Alexis Pritchard (New Zealand).