By Melissa McCullough Photos Damien Wyer & Supplied
Caitlin Parker, a Dromana boxer, has been chosen to represent Australia at the now-2021 Tokyo Olympics. She was just 13 years of age when she had her first ring experience against a 25-year-old opponent in a bout in Western Australia. She had only two years’ boxing experience in the lead up to this first match.
“I was always big for my age, but it must have been a shock for her to see how young I was,” she says, laughing. “I think I stopped growing at 13.”
Although there was no “winner” in that exhibition bout, Caitlin felt right at home and took to the sport with gusto.
Caitlin was no stranger to combat sports. “I’d already been right into taekwondo and earned a black belt, and was eager to try something new,” she said. When she was 11, she decided to try boxing. “I saw boxing as an interesting challenge and was eager to prove myself against the boys. I’m an extremely competitive person and train as hard as I can.”
And train she does. In the lead up to the Olympics her usual week consists of about 16 sessions of drills and exercise with one day off for rest. She says, “We do a whole variety of training methods. For example, in the first session we will do some kind of condition training such as running, rower, bike, etc.” Her second session focuses on strength and the third session comprises, boxing, sparring and pad work.
Her hard work has proven rewarding and, at just 24 years of age, Caitlin fights in the 69-75kg female middleweight class and has been in the Australian team since she was 15.
Coach Marcos Amado, of Peninsula Boxing, Mornington, is full of praise for his charge who he says is only the third Australian female boxer ever to qualify for an Olympic Games.
Over the course of her boxing career, Caitlin has won seven Australian championships as well as winning a Bronze Medal in the 2011 Junior World Championships in Turkey; a Silver Medal in the 2014 Youth World Championships in Bulgaria; a Bronze Medal in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China, and a Silver Medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
In March 2020 she returned from the Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualification tournament in Amman, Jordan, where she was successful in her Olympic Selection and ranked in the top two in Asia and Oceania. She also added a Silver Medal to her collection in that event. It was a relief to Caitlin to hear that the 2020 Olympics had been postponed rather than cancelled. “I have waited for my Olympic Dream for so long already – I can wait another year,” she said.
As of 2019, her successes have made her the highest internationally ranked female amateur boxer in Australia.
“I love what I do, and I am so thankful that I have a good coach,” Caitlin said.
The compliment is reciprocated by coach Marcos who says Caitlin is “the best at what she does”.
She lists her parents as her biggest inspirations in life and says of them, “My Dad worked two jobs seven days a week for most of my life and my Mum would work multiple jobs to raise money for me to train and compete, and they would still come to training every night. They always pushed me to do my best and instilled in me to never give up. My drive and motivation in life is to not only do well for myself but to do well for them and be the best version of me I can be.”
Caitlin is currently studying a Diploma of Sports Coaching and Development and work when she can, as a motivational speaker to schools, sport groups and businesses.
Come May, Caitlin will make her way overseas and, hopefully, travel restrictions-wise things will be OK. If not, she will take the necessary precautions to have a good training camp and have some competition before the Olympics. She says, “I’m not going to stress if I don’t get any competition before then. In an elite sport such as boxing you have to be adaptable to the situation. I’ll be ready no matter what.”
Her goal and dream is to be Australia’s first ever female Olympic Boxing medallist. Brimming with strength and determination she is positioned as a genuine Gold Medal chance for the 2021 Olympics.
Tokyo cannot come quickly enough.