Kurt Walker insists he is ready to seize the moment after waiting an extra year to make his Olympics bow.
The Lisburn featherweight will make his debut at the Tokyo Games in the early hours of Saturday morning when he faces Spain’s Quiles Brotons in the last-32.
If the Olympics had gone ahead as planned last year then Walker would have missed out on his dream.
The 26-year-old suffered a shock defeat in the qualifiers in March 2020, just two days before the shutters went down on the London tournament due of the onset of Covid-19.
Walker was then due to fight in a second bout of qualifiers two months later, but those plans were dashed when his daughter was born three months premature on May 17.
Walker’s girlfriend Ria went for a routine check-up and the doctors found that she had pre-eclampsia, a complication in pregnancy caused by high blood pressure that can result in organ damage.
She was rushed from the Ulster Hospital to Antrim Area Hospital, where she gave birth to Layla, who weighed only 700 grams.
The couple’s ordeal worsened when two weeks later they were told that if Layla’s condition didn’t improve over six hours then she would die, but she proved her own fighting qualities by improving inside two.
Walker admits the harrowing experience has put his boxing career into perspective, but insists he also has added motivation every time he steps into the ring.
“This has been 10 years of working hard. This has been my dream,” Walker told Belfast Live.
“The one-year delay suited me. My daughter was sick in hospital last year so I wouldn’t have gone to the Olympics if they had been held last year.
Kurt Walker with his daughter Layla
“So it has actually been beneficial for me. The delay has made me better and more mature as a boxer. I think it suits the whole team who have improved.”
Walker also admits having a daughter has opened his outlook on boxing.
“For years I was fighting for just me. I loved boxing, and that’s how it was,” he said.
“Now I have something else to fight for, it’s not just me. I have to think about the future, and it definitely helps me with training every day.”
Walker won European gold in Belarus two years ago, and has also medalled at the Commonwealth Games.
But he says standing on the podium in Tokyo would top everything he has achieved in his career to date.
“Winning a medal at the Olympics would be the icing on the cake,” he said.
“When I won European gold it was just madness afterwards. I’d say if I won a medal, or the gold, then it would be 100 times better.”