Monday, September 24, 2018

Lauren Kelly; youth olympic boxer and elbow surgery survivor

Two years ago this week Lauren Kelly was recovering from a serious elbow operation. This week she's packing to represent Ireland in the boxing ring at the Youth Olympics. How do you go from crying "buckets of tears" to the green jersey? 

Training out of St Brigid's Boxing Gym in Offaly, Lauren holds bronze at European level, seven Irish titles and is hoping to add an Olympic medal to that list. She's competed at two World Championships as well but more on that later. Just finished school, she's deferred her place at the Garda (police) training college to focus on training.

When we talked it was more about going forward and plans for Buenos Aires but where Lauren is coming from is grim and it all could have been so different.

She says: “I think boxing is an addictive thing, it’s not a thing about hitting people, you have to be dedicated to enjoy it properly. People don’t understand because I have to get rid of my social life, I’m training nearly every day.”

Now 18, she started training at 13, and jokes she was a late starter as others on the national squad started at seven years.

It was her coach Liam Brereton who told me about the operation. Lauren suffers from hyper-mobility meaning she could extend her joints further than an ordinary person. The ligaments don't hold together in the same way they do for other people. Fighting in Turkey in 2016, she threw a punch and two ligaments snapped right off and one was hanging on a wish and a prayer.

Treatment? Drilling into the elbow, weaving in synthetic ligaments and rebuilding the whole elbow. Liam says he's so grateful to Olive Flannery at Hermitage Sports Clinic   - you just need to meet the right person.

He says: " Lauren's achievements in the ring are more than amazing. But her life story is something else. After the operation, there was months of rehabilitation, nights of coming into the club watching the other kids train and buckets of tears. Because of her determination to box again, she made a full recovery."

She came into the gym for months unable to train but watching, watching and learning. She begged the coaches for even shadow-boxing but was banned from it all until her elbow freed up. Some people in the club predicted it was all over, predicting with sympathy  but none the less ..  But Liam says she never stopped thinking about fighting.

Photo via Irish Boxing
Lauren meanwhile is looking ahead. She says: "It’s going well, I’m training twice a day now and I can focus much more than juggling it with study. I got bronze at the Europeans, but didn’t medal in Worlds. I lost to France, and I’ll meet that French girl in the Youth Olympics so hopefully I’ll get her back. I’ll have a second chance with her.”

And somehow you just know she'll take that second chance with all she's got.

I spoke to Lauren Kelly initially for this piece on the Youth Olympics Team. 

All photos courtesy Team Ireland. Follow the Youth Olympics Team on  Team Ireland  

Updates on Lauren's boxing career via Liam Berenton on Twitter 

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