Aidan Walsh was ecstatic this morning after winning Ireland’s third medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
Walsh, who leapt for joy after he was awarded his welterweight quarter-final against Mauritius’ Merven Clair, was roared on by his sister Michaela at the Kokugikan Arena.
He has secured the bronze medal with his 4-1 triumph and will fight GB’s Pat McCormack in the silver medal fight on Sunday, and will be eyeing up a bid for the gold if he successfully negotiates that fight.
Walsh couldn’t believe afterwards that he had joined the pantheon of Irish greats, and particularly that he was following in the footsteps of Olympic medal winners from his own city, Belfast, becoming the ninth medal winner from that hot-bed of boxing.
“I’m getting shivers here just thinking about it,” the 24-year-old smiled.
“It’s incredible, it’s amazing, it’s something that I dreamed of since I was no age,” said the 24-year-old.
“The same as Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Hugh Russell…I was talking to Hugh Russell before I came out here and it’s amazing now that I’m in the same situation that he was in.
“Obviously I want to go further. It’s really, really good.
“It’s incredible. I’m just so glad I’ve done my family, my girlfriend, my coaches and. Team Ireland so proud.
“To have your name up there as an Olympic medallist… I want to go for gold, always aiming for higher and better.
“It’s gone now and I’m on to the next one – I’m looking forward to the next one. “
Walsh was decisive in winning the first round against Clair but it became a cagey affair thereafter as the Irishman looked to avoid getting himself into trouble.
He did enough to see himself through.
“You don’t really know until your hand is raised after the final bell,” he admitted. “When I got back to the corner I said to Zaur (Antia), ‘Did I win?’.
“In that moment you’re just looking for confirmation from anybody, looking up to my sisters, the coaches Zaur and Dima (Dmitry), and you’re just looking for confirmation and then when your name gets called it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Aidan Walsh of Ireland celebrates
(Image: Getty Images)
When the judges’ decision was announced 4-1 in Walsh’s favour, he took a massive leap into the air.
“Jeez, I’d love to see that photo,” he laughed. “I’m looking forward to seeing it after. It will be good. It’s something that will go down in history.”
Walsh could hear her sister, who is also part of the elite boxing squad and who had been beaten in her fight earlier in the week, urging him on to victory.
He beamed: “Her voice cuts through the noise! You’d hear her everywhere in Belfast!
“It’s the same when we’re sparring in Dublin the coaches have to shush her.
“Ah it’s great, me and her are best friends. I would actually cut the medal in half and give her half of it, that’s how much she means.
“I’m disappointed for her that she didn’t come out here and create history together, that would have meant a lot to me.
“But it’s just boxing, and we’ll come again for the next Olympics and try and create more history. “
On the fight, Walsh said he implemented the game plan that was devised by his coaching team.
“It’s the same again, what Zaur and Dima tell me what to do, when I’m listening in the corner, they gave me the right tactics,” he said.
“It’s all about the right tactics and they always give me the right tactics. You just have to listen to them and I’ve learned that over the years, to listen more and more and more and do what I’m told.”
Michaela Walsh encourages her brother Aidan Walsh
(Image: Getty Images)
The referee, Mansur Muhiddinov, engaged with Walsh on several occasions in the final round, ordering him to stop moving away from his opponent.
“He told me to fight,” Walsh said. “I’ve been getting that my whole life so I have, people saying ‘fight, fight, fight, hurry up and move’.
“I’ve always had that style of moving.
“I’m just now implementing more stuff while I’m moving that the coaches are showing me and I’m learning more and more styles and techniques and tactics while on the move whereas before I used to just move and not really do as much.
“Now I’m growing as a fighter, I’m not just going on the move, I’m going backwards and going forwards and it’s great.”