Look no further than the success of boxing’s golden girls Skye Nicolson and Anja Stridsman for proof.
Nicolson made no secret of her desire to stay put, telling The Canberra Times “we’re all hoping the program will continue and we will go back to Canberra” after she shifted back to her home state of Queensland in June.
Boxing Australia quickly shut down any thoughts about uprooting itself from the AIS following a review and implemented a youth and junior talent identification program.
Former world title challenger and 2004 Olympian Jamie Pittman is now in his first month as Boxing Australia’s National Futures coach, overseeing a nation-wide program targeting the next generation.
“It’s the first time we have really had a program targeted at sub-elite and junior elite athletes,” O’Brien said.
“Hopefully, in a couple of years’ time by the time we get to the 2022 Commonwealth Games and 2024 Olympics, we will see a few more of those guys come through.
“Prior, we really only picked up athletes when they were already at the senior level and didn’t put a lot of investment into them before that. Hopefully it will end up giving us a decent pool of athletes to pick from, and when they come through to senior representation, they will be quite handy already.
“What we have put into long-term goals has always been whatever crop of athletes we’ve got in front of us. A lot of plans didn’t extend too far along the way, so it’s a really important step for us in that area.
“We’ve been steadily improving at world championships over the past four or five years or so, that’s a good indicator as we go into this year which is where a lot of the Olympic qualifying will be.”
But that isn’t to say there haven’t been a few nervous moments along the way.
A litany of political in-fighting has seen the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) go toe-to-toe with the International Olympic Committee to spark fears boxing could be booted from the Games.
Accusations of corruption run rife through boxing and dubious decisions have driven a wedge between the AIBA and IOC, with the latter at one stage announcing it will freeze planning for boxing at the 2020 Games.
However O’Brien is confident the mess will be cleaned up with the IOC moving to ensure a boxing tournament can take place to continue the sport’s 105-year-old legacy at the Games.
“Our international federation is having a few issues with the IOC which leaves us all in limbo,” O’Brien said.
“It’s a bit of a pain and we can’t give a lot of clarity to athletes for what the pathway is going to look like, but hopefully in six months it will all get cleared up.”
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times