BURY boxer Muhammad Ali admitted he was relieved to put his injury nightmare behind him and walk away from the Youth Olympic Games with a bronze medal around his neck.
Just over a month before Ali was due to fly out to Nanjing for the second summer Youth Olympic Games, disaster struck when he was cut above his left eye in training.
But the injury didn’t seem to slow the 18-year-old down as breezed through his 52kg preliminary bout against Masud Yusifzada on Saturday.
However the lack of proper training time caught up with him 24 hours later in his semi-final as he lost to Shakur Stevenson, the American having also beaten Ali to gold at April’s AIBA World Youth Championships.
Ali wasn’t about to throw in the towel though and yesterday (Monday) he returned to the ring to see off Indian challenger Gaurav Solanki by unanimous decision to take home bronze.
And after considering whether he would even travel to China due to the cut in the first place, Bury Amateur Boxing Club’s Ali was delighted not to leave Nanjing empty handed.
“The bronze means everything to me because training has not been great because I got a cut eye about five or six weeks ago,” Ali said.
“That meant that I stopped sparring early so this tournament was the first time I was back in the ring for more than a month and my fitness was no where near to what it normally is and neither was my timing but I still got a medal so I am over the moon.
“Obviously I have not been sparring so I have had to do more running, more bag work, more pads to make up for the sparring and I am really happy to get a bronze.
“I wasn’t even going to come because of the cut but I am so happy that I did and the hard work paid off.
“I am disappointing not to get to the final but because of the lack of training I am really happy to come away with a medal.”
So far 2014 has been kind to Ali, having just added Youth Olympic Games bronze to the world silver he claimed back in April.
But with next month’s European Youth Championships right around the corner in Zagreb, Ali is in no mood to slow down any time soon.
“I won a silver at the worlds and now a bronze here, I have the Europeans left so hopefully I can get another medal there and I will have a great year,” he added.
“This whole experience has been amazing. I never thought it would be as big as this before I came here and then the opening ceremony was amazing and I realized then that it was a big Games and then I won the bronze medal and I am so happy.”
The British Olympic Association prepares and leads British athletes at the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games. It works in partnership with sport National Governing Bodies to enhance Olympic success and is responsible for championing the Olympic Values. www.teamgb.com