What The Dropped Olympic Sports Mean For Ireland

What The Dropped Olympic Sports Mean For Ireland
Jordan Klein
Jordan Klein

The LA28 committee have officially confirmed five new sports on the programme for the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 (LA28). The addition of cricket, baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse, and squash will expand the LA28 program to 33 sports.

As it stands, boxing, lightweight rowing, weightlifting, modern pentathlon, and break-dancing are missing from the proposed LA28 program compared to next year's Paris program.

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Boxing

Boxing has been under scrutiny since the Rio 2016 Olympics, marred by judging controversies. In 2019, the IOC suspended the International Boxing Association (IBA) due to governance and financial issues. Despite assurances that boxing would be part of LA28, its inclusion is now unclear due to the addition of new sports.

The Olympic Federation of Ireland is awaiting official confirmation on boxing's status. Ireland has a strong boxing tradition, having won numerous Olympic medals in the sport. The history of Olympic boxing holds a special place in Ireland's sporting heritage, with a remarkable lineage of pugilistic excellence that has seen Irish boxers consistently shine on the world stage.

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I think we are confident that boxing will be at the Olympics in 2024, a massive commitment from the IOC,” said OFI president Sarah Keane. “The challenge is whether they [IOC] are going to have the people required to run the tournament. Ultimately, they oversee the running of the Olympic Games and are not supposed to run events within the Olympic Games. They thought they would just be doing this for Tokyo.”

It wasn't until 1952 that Ireland earned its first Olympic boxing medal, with John McNally clinching silver in the bantamweight category in Helsinki. From then on, Ireland has dominated the Olympic boxing scene.

The pivotal moment arrived in 1992 when Michael Carruth, in a historic feat, earned Ireland's first Olympic boxing gold medal by triumphing in the welterweight division in Barcelona. His success, alongside Wayne McCullough's silver in the bantamweight category, initiated an era of boxing excellence in Ireland. Kenny Egan won silver in 2008, which ended a 16-year medal drought for Irish boxing. Darren Sutherland, won bronze in the middleweight category, and Paddy Barnes, the only Irish boxer with two Olympic medals, secured bronze in the light flyweight division in both 2008 and 2012. Notably, women's boxing made its Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games, where Ireland experienced its most successful Olympics ever with four medals: John Joe Nevin (silver, bantamweight) and Michael Conlan (bronze, flyweight) added to the impressive medal haul, and Katie Taylor brought home the gold in the women's lightweight category.

Katie Taylor has elevated Irish boxing to another level. Along with her Olympic gold medal, she has won five World Championships, six European Championships, five European Union Championships and three AIBA World Elite Female Boxer of the Year Awards (2008, 2010 and 2012).

Taylor is arguably the greatest boxer in the history of women’s amateur boxing. In addition to her sporting accomplishments, Taylor has played a significant role in the international women's amateur boxing scene's branding. Taylor was a key player in the campaign to get women's boxing approved as an Olympic sport for the 2012 Games.

In 2021, Kellie Harrington secured her place in Irish boxing folklore by capturing gold in the women's lightweight division at the Tokyo Olympics. Harrington won gold in the 60kg final at the European games this summer, and Aoife O'Rourke took gold as well for the 75kg event.

Ireland has won 18 of its overall 35 Olympic medals in boxing across 29 Olympic Games.  The exclusion of boxing from the 2028 Olympics carries significant implications for Ireland and the global sporting community, as this historic and cherished discipline will be noticeably absent from the Games. For Ireland, a nation with a storied tradition in Olympic boxing, this decision has far-reaching consequences. The exclusion of boxing from the 2028 Olympics might deprive young talents of an invaluable platform to showcase their skills on the world stage, thereby impacting the growth and development of boxing in Ireland. Yet, Ireland has a resilient sporting culture, and the legacy of its Olympic boxers is sure to inspire the next generation to persevere.

Rowing

Lightweight rowing will make its final appearance at the Paris 2024 Olympics. However, the 2028 LA Olympics will introduce Beach Sprint Rowing, a format of Coastal Rowing. Three medal events will be proposed for Beach Sprint Rowing at LA28: men's solo, women's solo, and mixed double sculls. The addition of Beach Sprint Rowing introduces a mixed event to the Olympic Games for the first time. Classic Rowing will continue without lightweight double sculls. The competition formats, quotas, and events for rowing in LA28 will be confirmed after the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Rowing made its official Olympic debut in Paris in 1900. Over the years, there have been several alterations to the Olympic rowing program, including the introduction of women's rowing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and lightweight rowing for both men and women at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The lightweight events (the lightweight women’s double and the lightweight men’s double) impose strict weight limits; individual women must not weigh more than 59kg; the average crew weight can be no more than 57kg. Individual men must not weigh more than 72.5kg; the average crew weight can be no more than 70kg. Lightweight double sculls for men and women allowed athletes to participate without exceeding specific weight limits. This provided a platform for talented Irish rowers, as well as many others around the world, who excelled in the lightweight category.

Ireland's history in the Olympic rowing scene has been marked by remarkable achievements. Three medals have been won in lightweight rowing, which equates to 21 medals along with those won in boxing, or about 60% of Ireland’s total. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Irish rowers Paul and Gary O'Donovan clinched a historic Silver medal in the Men's Lightweight Double Sculls. Following the Rio Olympics, Irish lightweight rowing continued to flourish with Paul O'Donovan, in particular, winning four consecutive World Championships. Furthermore, the Irish Lightweight Women's Team also made waves; Aoife Casey, Lydia Heaphy, Cliodhna Nolan, and Margaret Cremen have been delivering outstanding results at the top level. Nolan won Gold in the Lightweight Women's Pair, and Cremen and Casey won Silver in the Lightweight Women's Double Scull at the 2020 European U23 Rowing Championships. Cremen and Casey's recent performance at the World Rowing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia have qualified them for the Lightweight Women's Double for Paris 2024.

The Irish Amateur Rowing Union (IARU), established in 1899, has played a pivotal role in organizing and promoting rowing nationally and internationally. The Irish Championships, instituted in 1912, continue to be a cornerstone of the sport, now under the banner of Rowing Ireland. With the removal of the lightweight division at LA28, the nation loses an avenue for Olympic glory that had proven successful in the past.

The exclusion of both boxing and lightweight rowing from the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles come as a blow to Ireland's rich Olympic legacy. Boxing has been an integral part of Ireland's sporting heritage, yielding numerous medals, and Irish lightweight rowers have consistently excelled on the world stage. These sports have been integral to Ireland's Olympic success, carrying with them numerous triumphs, challenges, and inspiring stories.

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