Normality has new meaning now

Four crazy, blurred months have spun by since Katie Taylor claimed gold at the ExCel Arena in London and Peter Taylor, her father and coach, expressed the hope that his daughter would walk away from the ring for the last time.

Like Alexander, the woman from Bray could have scanned the horizon last September and mourned that there were no more worlds to conquer, no glass ceilings to shatter, but the 60kg conqueror has simply decided to scale all those peaks again.

She has been back to work, ticking over in the gym, for three months now already, emerging more often than she would care for to grace some awards do or honour another sponsor’s agreement with her quiet aura and winning smile but the focus remains the same as it always was.

Train. Fight. Win. Do it again.

If anything, her diary is more chockablock than ever: Dublin in February, the Europeans later in the year, a leading role in the proposed women’s World Series of Boxing and talk of fights in the O2, Cork, Belfast, and even the Big Apple and Sin City.

Pete knew soon enough after London that she wasn’t for turning. Arsenal’s womens’ team were interested, as they had been for a while, but she is too much of a home-bird for that and nothing stirred when she took in a few of her old club’s games during the four-week break she took post-Games.

“I don’t think I’m still over it, to tell you the truth,” said Pete of her decision to continue her chosen career. “Yeah, I probably think every day that she’s going to change her mind but, you know, whatever she wants to do I’ll always support her.

“But I’d love to wake up in the morning and for her to say, ‘I’ve had enough of this, to tell you the truth’ because it’s tough for her to go through what she goes through all the time.

“And I mean every sparring session is a tough sparring session, because you’re sparring men and you’re afraid of injury as well, afraid of her nose being broken and everything. It’s tough for me every time she’s in sparring.”

How tough, exactly? “Ah, listen, I can’t put into words watching Katie boxing. If you look back at the Olympics, I think every day I got 10 years older till the final. And every sparring session is the same. She was sparring there last week against a young lad and they were going hammer and tongs at each other.

“I was thinking, ‘I don’t need this’, you know? It’s tough for a father, sitting there watching your daughter getting punched, to tell you the truth. It’s not easy. There’s no nice way of putting it. I love the sport but it’s difficult to watch.”

Others used to think the same, whether it was Katie or any one of the other women who dared step into the ring and challenge one of society’s last prejudices when it comes to gender and sport, but Pete is clearly proud of what his daughter has done.

Katie’s first fight at the Olympics, against Great Britain’s Natasha Jonas, was ultimately voted the best of the Games whether male or female, and her superstar-status in the UK was solidified by her reception at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards last weekend.

“I just can’t believe it,” said Pete. “It’s mad that a girl has opened people’s eyes to boxing. It was just a working class sport, now everybody is interested in amateur boxing and it’s taken a female to do that. It’s been crazy.”

They were warned last August their lives would change forever once she stepped down off that podium in East London but father and daughter are still coming to grips with the fact that she is applauded for doing something as mundane as walking through an airport.

“Everyone knew Katie was four time world champion as well and five-time European champion but I don’t think they realised what level she was boxing at or what level the girls were.

“They probably thought it was just a few girls boxing each other and they all thought Katie would come back with a gold medal, that she was a shoe-in when she goes to the Olympics. And the Olympics woke everyone up to the standard of female boxing.”

How could she stop now, just when it’s kicking off?


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