Aoife O’Rourke’s Olympic odyssey is over after defeat at the hands of former world champion Li Qian.
O’Rourke, who at 24 is Ireland’s youngest competing boxer in Tokyo, found herself on the wrong side of a unanimous verdict today, the Chinese veteran prevailing on all ringside cards.
A 2019 European champion in her own right, the Castlerea native is no stranger to excelling on the international stage, but was unable to progress on this occasion, her superior work-rate not enough to win favour with the judges who leant towards the more economical output of Li.
Working well at close quarters, O’Rourke was undaunted by the gravity of her Olympic debut, forcing the action on the inside against her esteemed opponent. Li’s loose and languid style soon shone through in the first, however, timing O’Rourke’s forward forways with counter shots, finding the target with an eye-catching multi-punch combination.
Trailing marginally after round one, O’Rourke palpably upped the pace in the second stanza, scoring with stiff jabs and a slew of thudding right hooks to head to body, Li’s disorientation clear as the referee continually warned her for excessive holding.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Rio 2016 medallist maintained her lead heading into the final round, meaning O’Rourke found herself pushing for a knockout in the closing frames. However, those endeavours were to no avail, Li doing enough to ward off the Irish fighter’s advances with single scoring shots en route to a decision victory.
In any event, O’Rourke’s qualification for these games caps what has been a meteoric rise for the Roscommon middleweight. A relative newcomer to the sport in her late teens, she remains firmly in the frame for an Olympic rerun at Paris 2024.
Someone with rather more immediate plans is Kurt Walker, the Lisburn featherweight fresh from a momentous defeat of top-seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov earlier today.
The victory saw Walker into the quarter-final phase, with he and colleague Aidan Walsh now set to compete for podium places in the 57kg and 69kg classifications respectively.
Next between the ropes for Ireland, though, is lightweight top seed Kellie Harrington, who makes her Olympic bow at 3.00am Friday Irish time when she takes on Rebecca Nicoli of Italy.