Tough Girls

Katie and Nicola will fight all the way to live the Olympic dream

Last Updated: 13/12/11 11:22am

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Nicola Sanders and Katie Taylor are two athletes from two very different disciplines but they share the same goal: to compete at the 2012 Olympics.

Athlete Sanders hopes to earn one of three 400m spots in Team GB, while boxer Taylor wants to claim the one major honour that still eludes her.

Lightweight Taylor, 25, is a three-time world amateur champion and captain of the Irish female football team. She told Special Report's Rachel Wyse that her focus and energy are directed towards May's World Championships in China, where she hopes to seal her selection for London 2012.

"I'm not even thinking about the Olympics yet because I have to get there first," said Taylor. "It's going to be a huge challenge for me but if my training keeps going well I hope I can qualify because it would be a dream come true to get here because I am representing my country.

"Some people don't want to see women boxing. It is very hard at times but it is in the Olympics now and it gives everyone a chance to see women's boxing at its best."
Katie Taylor Quotes of the week

"Last time in Beijing we came back with three medals - it's always Ireland's best chance for an Olympic medal, I think, so hopefully I can keep that tradition up. We are the fighting Irish, though!

"I always loved watching Sugar Ray Leonard boxing; at the moment it's Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather. But when I was growing up Barry McGuigan and all the Irish fighters, like Steve Collins.

"But also Sugar Ray Leonard because he won an Olympic gold medal as well and because of his rivalry that he had with the likes of Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns; that era of boxing was amazing to watch."

Impress

A total of 36 women will compete when Women's Boxing features at the Olympics as a full medal event for the first time and Taylor hopes her participation can help change perceptions of the sport.

"I've always wanted to raise the profile of the sport; a lot of people do have negative opinions about it and some people are against the sport as well," she said. "Some people don't want to see women boxing. It is very hard at times but it is in the Olympics now and it gives everyone a chance to see women's boxing at its best.

"People are going to be shocked at the standard and we are really going to show the world what women's boxing is about."

Taylor trains for the most part at Bray Boxing, in Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland, in facilities that aren't state-of-the-art.

Sky Sports boxing pundit Johnny Nelson says that only shows the desire within her.

"If you look at where she trains, it's like a shed. There are no fancy showers or fancy TVs on the wall - it's a place for work. That's where she has come from, from the off.

"So if that is the case, you cannot impress her or get her mind off anything that she is doing. Her job is to go out there and box and win. This girl can fight for fun."

Hardest

Sanders has her own battles.

The 29-year-old has been one of Britain's top 400m runners for five years despite missing 18 months of training since 2007 because of recurring injuries.

The worst - a back injury - has plagued her for over 10 years and denied her the chance to push on after claiming silver at the 2007 World Championships.

"In 2010 I had to basically shut down and build myself up again from scratch, really, and try to get on top of this back problem in order to be strong for now," she told Special Report.

"I couldn't even walk or bend over because my back was so bad; we just had to start from scratch. But you get used to that sort of thing and you just build yourself up from there."

Her Coach Tony Lester added: "The worst thing was she got a silver medal in the World Championships a year before the Olympic Games in Beijing, so you think 'we can now build on this' but we never got the chance.

"That was the hardest thing for me as a coach - to see all the hard work and effort over three or four years go down the plughole because of an injury that we just could not manage."

Sanders, who set her personal best of 49.65 in 2007 and is currently fifth in the 400m British rankings, has been putting in the hard yards at the Thames Valley Athletics Centre in Berkshire but will decamp to South Africa for five weeks of warm weather training on December 20.

After underperforming at the Beijing Olympics, she is desperate to put the record straight; she will get the chance to qualify for the team at the National Championships at the end of June, which coincide with her 30th birthday celebrations.

"I'm not going to be running for that much longer, I think, probably one or two years past London so I'm starting to think about other things that I might want to do which I haven't really figured out yet," she reflected. "But I'm not sure my body will hold up for much longer than that!

"This would definitely be my last Olympics."

Special Report wishes both her and Katie Taylor the best of luck. You can follow their progress on Sky Sports News HD.

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