A tale of inspiration: The everyday hero and the star

Darren McCosker Roar Rookie

By , Darren McCosker is a Roar Rookie

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    Many stories from the world of sport that purport to demonstrate the definition of courage have been told. Those that gain the most attention come from the rarefied world of the highest rating professional leagues.

    However, it is the achievements of the everyday heroes who live life among the ordinary that can provide the most inspiration.

    Women’s boxing is still developing its recognition as a top-line sport. Even its best performers must balance their dedication to the highest level of performance with the pressures of day-to-day life. The grand final of the ladies 56kg in the Elite Boxing Championship showed two outstanding displays of inspiration that could provide a guide for many better-known sports stars.

    Local star and prep class teacher at Yugumbir State School in South West Brisbane, Luci Hand defeated the reigning New Zealand Champion Troy Garton in one of the fights of the tournament in the semi-finals. She had, however, entered the ring with a black eye, courtesy of a very tough and tight win the night before the semi-finals against Fortitude Valley’s Lauren Kidd. This became a target of Garton’s attacks, and as such, at the end of the fight Hands support team were seriously worried about what lay ahead.

    Once the cameras stopped rolling, Luci faced a race against time. The grand final was held less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the bout. Sitting quietly in the fighter’s dressing room while her trainers frantically applied ice treatments and ran preliminary tests, Luci vowed to make the ring for the final against boxing’s pin-up girl and face of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Skye Nicolson.

    On the advice of the ringside doctor, Luci was sent to hospital to undertake scans to ensure that the injury wasn’t a broken bone – which, with the eye rapidly closing, seemed likely. A nervous wait in the hospital finished around midnight, with scans showing no fracture.

    The next challenge was the day ahead. Weigh-in was scheduled for mid-morning in preparation for an evening fight. In a sport where a person’s weight is measured to the gram and recovery time from weigh-in to ring entrances is prepared to the minute, another significant hurdle presented itself.

    Luci was due to be in front of her prep class at the same time as weigh-in, due to her using all her holidays in pursuing her boxing across other tournaments. This was a potential show stopper. Weigh-ins are often tenser than bouts as each side works to maximise their advantage and make sure their opponent gains none.

    Skye Nicolson, every bit the prodigy her ring-name reflects, comes from a fighting family. They have seen most things and confronted many an obstacle in their support of her rise to genuine world class. Well within their rights to demand Luci choose between work and boxing on the day of her biggest fight to date, they also knew what was at stake.

    This series, with its multinational broadcast audience, is a genuine breakthrough for the sport and something that has never occurred in Australia before. To provide an opponent any opportunity to advance their cause on this stage would be considered somewhere between stupid and dumb.

    However, proving the statement that champions have more to their character than their performance in the ring, Skye’s team provided a simple statement. “Luci earned her place; it wouldn’t be right to take it away like this.” They then conceded something that is rarely, if ever, seen. Luci would be allowed to weigh in at 7am – allowing her to still work for the day and be ready to fight, and it must be said, providing an extra three hours to re-hydrate and prepare.

    Providing this concession speaks volumes about the integrity of Skye, she knows the sweet taste of success but is also aware of the bitter experience of having opportunity taken away outside the ring. To assist an opponent she would be facing in hours reflects why so many have admiration for her as an ambassador as well as a boxer.

    As Luci taught letters and numbers through the day, dealing with questions about her eye and what she had been doing, she knew the fitness test with the doctor would be far more difficult. He had already told the promoters that he would rule her out anyway as the bruising was deep and the eye closed.

    He hadn’t counted on the determination of a prep teacher. When they met for a fitness review, Luci countered every point he raised, arguing as one of the nation’s elite fighters she knows both the risk, but more importantly, how to protect herself.

    After pleading her case, the doctor was forced to agree. Luci would be allowed to enter the ring at the Souths Sports Club to fight for the title, the collection of prizes and one of its kind, victors ring.

    Upon arriving at the venue, the obviously bruised and swollen eye sent a ripple of excitement through the crowd. With kit in hand, it was obvious Luci would be stepping into the ring. Would the rollercoaster of the last 24 hours be a hindrance or simply the building of enough emotion to spring an upset and take the title?

    After preliminary bouts were complete, the crowd waited in nervous anticipation. As the smoke machine fired up and the trumpets blared all eyes turned to the doors as they opened and welcomed the two gladiators for their side-by-side walk to the ring.

    As they strode forward with purpose in every step, the crowd shouted their support and a moment of pure inspiration occurred between the fighter who had put so much into making it this far and the champion who openly gave her the allowance that enabled it to happen.

    You can tune in to see whether the fairytale can be completed on Tuesday at 8pm on ESPN1.