Castlerea boxer, Aoife O’Rourke, lost out on an unanimous points decision to Chinese fighter Li Qian in yesterday morning’s (Wednesday) Women’s Middleweight round of 16 bout at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
O’Rourke was aggressive from the start, stepping forward to confront Li Qian, who had a height and reach advantage over the Roscommon girl. Qian’s precision helped her to take the first round on the judges’ scorecards (3-2) despite an impressive start from O’Rourke as she took control of the centre of the ring.
The momentum seemed to shift in O’Rourke’s favour in the second round as her tireless workrate forced her more experienced opponent to slow matters down. Qian was warned a number of times for holding by Algerian referee Sidali Mokretari, as O’Rourke gamely took the fight to the number two seed.
While O’Rourke dictated the tempo, all five judges, somewhat surprisingly, awarded the second round to the streetwise Chinese fighter as her precise shots found their target.
O’Rourke, heroic in her endeavour, was forced to up the tempo even further in the third and clipped Qian with a couple of cracking right hooks. A bronze medal winner in Rio, Qian survived to claim the unanimous decision, but O’Rourke can hold her head high with her focus now firmly on Paris 2024.
Speaking afterwards, O’Rourke was magnanimous in defeat: “It’s not the result I wanted today. I was beaten by the better girl and everything is a steep learning curve. I’m here in Tokyo. Six years ago, my goal probably would have been for Paris 2024 and I’m lucky enough that I got into this Olympic cycle. I’ll go back to the gym now and work for Paris 2024.
“I’ve been working really hard in training and working with the coaches. We had a good plan going in, I put the pressure on her, hoping that she’d back down a bit, but again, she just picked me off. She was the better girl on the day. You learn every day. I’ll take this on the chin, go back to the gym and keep working,” she said.
Commenting on her overall Olympics experience, O’Rourke said: “Tokyo has been brilliant. We’ve had an amazing atmosphere.
“Everyone’s been great. I’m going to go back and cheer on everyone now the way they cheered me on today. There’s been a great buzz about the place”.