Caitlin Parker is one of Australia’s most accomplished female boxers. The seven-time Australian champion was the boxing team captain at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she won silver and is the only Australian boxer to win a medal at both the junior and youth world championships.
Parker qualified for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year which became a lengthy process due to COVID-19.
“Olympic qualifiers were supposed to be in Wuhan, China, five weeks earlier than we actually had them,” Parker said.
“I was in Thailand ready to head to China, but the city got shut down due to coronavirus. We got postponed and then it was announced the qualifiers would take place in Amman, Jordan, so we flew home for a couple weeks and then back to Thailand for a training camp before heading to Jordan.”
Olympic qualification has always been a dream for Parker since she was young, and she took a hit personally by missing out on qualifying for the Rio 2016 games.
“One of the hardest moments of my boxing career was not making the Rio Olympics, I had the belief I would be there, I had nothing else in my mind that I wouldn’t be there and wouldn’t be on the podium,” the 24-year-old said.
“It has been a dream of mine since I started boxing. I always wanted to go to the Olympics for rugby and boxing, and I thought I could do both but started to realise how much goes into one sport; we train three times a day. I am so happy that I have finally qualified.”
“I was a bit scared and was hoping that the Olympics weren’t going to be cancelled. I was relieved when I heard the Olympics were postponed.”
Parker can thank her Dad for her start in boxing. After trying many sports as a kid, it was a need for self-defence that brought combat sports into her life and to the sport she now loves.
“I got into boxing was I was 11 and did it for about two years just for fitness. My Dad wanted me to get into combat sports, boxing and taekwondo, to be able to defend myself, and he wouldn’t let me go to school by myself until I had a blackbelt in taekwondo,” the Western Australian said.
“I had my first fight at 13 and never looked back. I love the art of boxing; I love the challenges of it. I love being the minority of a woman in a male dominated sport, I love being able to push myself, show everyone that I can punch on with the boys and hold my own.”
Women were only allowed to competitively box for the first time at the 2012 Olympics, despite boxing being contested at every Summer Olympics since its introduction to the program in 1904.
It has also had it struggles professionally and is still a sport that lacks media attention, especially in Australia, where it has a small but loyal following. AFLW star Tayla Harris has brought new eyes to the sport with her appearances in the ring but it is something that Parker wants to see changed.
“I would love to see women’s boxing getting more media coverage, not even for the boxing but for the athletes. There are great athletes out there which are such good role models, so it would be good to see more publicity for female boxers and female athletes in general,” Parker said.
“Because Tayla Harris is a footy star, she is a good role model and a good person, she is brining good publicity to the sport of female boxing. I would love to spar her or get a charity much against her.”
Parker’s focus is on the postponed Tokyo Olympics, but at the start of the isolation period it was a struggle for the talented boxer.
“I found isolation hard to start with. I had been travelling non-stop, training three times a day, had Olympic qualifiers, it was such a crazy couple of months. I came home and was doing nothing. I couldn’t go to training, I had to stay at home. I was home for a week and a half, and I was so bored. I needed something to motivate me to get out of bed, I couldn’t get out of bed for hours because I was thinking ‘why do I even have to get up’, it was a little bit tough,” the Commonwealth silver medallist said.
“I ended up getting a puppy. I was home for a long time so I could put the effort into training him. He took up a lot of my time and made me get out and about more.”
“But I have trained my whole life for this (Olympic qualification). I can wait another year. I can deal with whatever life throws at me.”
It is that strength and determination that has positioned Parker as a genuine medal chance and helped shape her goals for Tokyo.
“My goal is an Olympic gold medal. To be Australia’s first ever woman boxing medallist and to win Australia’s first ever gold medal in boxing at the Olympics. Those are my goals and I am 100% committed them.”
Story: Daniel Hill, WSA Content Creator