The Boxing Road to Paris Oceania qualification tournament, hosted as part of the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara (SOL), awarded the first seven Paris 2024 quota places today out of a total of 13 qualification slots at stake.
The finals day swiftly turned into a dominant performance for Team Australia, placing seven boxers in seven finals and eventually claiming six out of the seven Olympic berths available.
In the first match of the day, Australia’s Tiana Echegaray secured the women’s 54kg Paris 2024 quota place, defeating Hainite Tuitupou from Tonga with a perfect score of 5 points to 0. Tiana expressed her excitement, stating, “It feels tremendous, incredible! I just want to thank my team, my family, and my partner. I can’t believe it!”
Teammate Tyla McDonald followed suit, claiming Australia’s second quota place of the day in the women’s 60kg final against New Zealand’s Erin Elizabeth Walsh. After a slow start, McDonald triumphed with a split decision of 4 to 1, expressing excitement for the upcoming Olympics. She added, “I can’t believe I have done that. It has been an unbelievable year, and I am now looking forward to Paris. I am going home and I can’t wait to celebrate with my family.” Regarding the final match, she confirmed, “The final match has been tough. She came out really strong, and I had to work hard in the last round. So, I am really happy with how it ended. I will now train as hard as I can for the Olympics, next year.”
Marissa Williamson added to Australia’s success with a 4:1 victory against New Zealand’s Cara Simone Wharerau in the women’s 66kg final, securing another ticket to Paris. Williamson expressed her joy, saying, “It feels amazing. This is my first Olympic cycle and my first major competition after being in the sport for four years, and I come out of it with a ticket to Paris. This is great!”
“The universe must be doing me a favor today,” she added. “I dislocated my knee two weeks ago while training, and I am glad I could get through a final.”
“It all started in a little gym in the western suburbs of Melbourne four years ago,” continued Marissa, “I was a little foster kid causing a bit of trouble at school, and I was sent to this gym. It took over my life and honestly saved me.”
“I am the very first Aboriginal woman to qualify for the Olympics in the sport of boxing. This is change-making. I am gonna go back home and celebrate with my community, my family, my loved ones. And then I will have to go to rehab for my knee to get ready for Paris.”
Caitlin Parker continued Australia’s winning streak by outscoring New Zealand’s Deanne Shontel Te-Paea Read by points, 5:0, and claiming the women’s 75kg Olympic berth. Parker said, “I am going to the Olympics for the second time after Tokyo. I am the first Australian woman to do so. It’s a massive blessing. This is going to be so much different from Tokyo.”
“The last Games were a massive learning experience for me. Going to the Games was a childhood dream of mine, the happiest day of my life. To go there and not do what I wanted to do has been a bit heartbreaking.”
“I won’t make some mistakes again,” she added. “I am going to Paris with a new hunger, to show the world what I am capable of.”
Moving on to the men’s divisions, it was Charlie Senior who claimed victory in the men’s 57kg final, defeating Allan Oaike from Papua New Guinea with a unanimous decision. Senior expressed his elation, saying, “My dreams come true, as an athlete. It means the world for me, as I made my family proud. I have been waiting a whole four years for this moment to come. Now I am going to double up, work harder, work 110%, to prepare for Paris.” In the men’s 80kg weight class, his teammate Callum Peters from Australia secured a commanding 5:0 score to defeat Roman Viney from Tonga and claim Australia’s sixth Olympic quota.
It was Samoa’s Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali who broke Australia’s dominance today. The men’s 92kg boxer put on a show of power and resilience in his final bout against the seventh Australian finalist of the day, Adrian Paoletti. Judges scored round 1 to the Australian, and round 2 to the Samoan, turning round 3 into a final within the final. It was then that the local crowd picked Plodzicki-Faoagali, and supported him blow after blow, lifting him atop the podium, the only non-Australian winner of the day.
Plodzicki-Faoagali said, “This is going to be my second time at the Olympics, I earned my ticket. The crowd here has been great. I enjoyed a lot of support, even from other teams; all islands were supporting me, I really appreciated it.”
“This puts Samoa and all the islands on the map. I went into the fight without thinking about the other bouts of the day. I concentrated on myself. I had to do what I had to do. Through the match, I knew I lost the first round, but I came out strong in the second, and in round three, I finished him off.”
A total of 13 quota places – one in each Olympic category (7 men’s, 6 women’s) – are up for grabs in Honiara, where athletes from 17 countries have been pursuing their Olympic dreams since November 27. After five days of intense competition between the ropes, the tournament will come to an end tomorrow, December 2, when the last six quota places will be distributed in the women’s 50 and 57kg divisions and in the men’s 51kg, 63.5kg, 71kg, and +92kg weight classes. For additional information and the results of the non-Olympic boxing weight classes contested during the tournament, check the official website of the 2023 Pacific Games at https://sol2023.gems.pr