THE countdown clock Port Macquarie Boxing Academy coach Dean Groth hangs on the wall is a gentle reminder of how long until the Commonwealth Games trials.
Academy trio Shelley Watts, Jessica Messina and Felipe Blemith all have a different story to tell and what they’ve overcome to be within reach of selection for Gold Coast 2018.
Watts is the reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist after her efforts at Glasgow in 2014.
While she’s the experienced, hard head of the trio, the 30-year-old is also no stranger to overcoming disappointment following her first-round exit at the Rio Olympic Games.
“That really messed me up and took some time to get over that,” she said.
“It took about 400 days before I returned back to the ring.”
Watts admitted she had been better prepared for other events and was confident her experience in the ring would hold her in good stead.
The Rio Olympics really messed me up and took some time to get over that.Shelley Watts
“It’s not the best I’ve been prepared,” she said.
“But experience helps you compete and fight under that pressure and under all sorts of circumstances so when it comes time for me to get in the ring I’m definitely going to be ready.”
A position on the Australian boxing team for the trip to the Glitter Strip will not soften the blow of missing out at Rio.
She isn’t looking for it to be.
“The Commonwealth Games are a completely different ball game to what the Olympics are,” she said.
“To make the Olympic Games you have to be in the top 12 in the world and it’s not just about being the best in Australia.
I don’t think you can try to make up for something that hurt you by trying to succeed somewhere else.Shelley Watts
“I don’t think you can try to make up for something that hurt you by trying to succeed somewhere else.”
There is a common theme between Watts, Messina and Blemith – and it isn’t with their training base in Port Macquarie.
Messina had to bounce back from a defeat to Saadat Abdulaeva in the world championships in Kazakhstan last year, while Blemith was beaten in qualifiers for the Rio Olympics.
For Messina, winning three bouts in Punchbowl will be enough to qualify for the home games.
“If I win gold that opens up the pathway for Commonwealth Games and that will be the highlight of my career,” Messina said.
“I have been to world championships, but to make the Commonwealth Games in your own country – what more could you ask for.”
After 13 years’ boxing experience, Blemith will need to win four fights to progress to the Gold Coast and fulfil a lifelong dream of representing his country.
I’ve always wanted to represent Australia in a sporting event from a little kid so to be able to do it in boxing – one of the toughest sports out – is amazing.Felipe Blemith
“I’ve been boxing a long time and closest I got was the Olympic qualifier which I lost in a very close decision,” he said.
“Even though I lost, it gave me the confidence that I had the goods.
“I’ve always wanted to represent Australia in a sporting event from a little kid so to be able to do it in boxing – one of the toughest sports out – is amazing.”
The trials will be held at Punchbowl between November 1 and 4