Noelle Rancourt wrote -
The Olympic Boxing Trials start this Friday. It's also the first time in the history of the sport that women's Boxing will be an Olympic Event. Sierra Leone should be sending its top boxers - and maybe, with your help, it can.
The young and talented boxers you see in these photos were children as one of the most brutal conflicts of the twentieth century raged. Meet the first four photographed.
Five years ago Edward Bangura (aka “Song”) stepped in the boxing ring. Today he is the light heavyweight champion in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, known for his courage in the ring, and for his devastating knock-outs. Outside the ring he is known for his quiet dedication to training and readiness to broker peace.
Franklyn Mayei started boxing when he was nine, encouraged by his uncle who spotted his talent early. He has since had an electric international career – including a bronze medal at the Manchester Commonwealth games at 15 and twice Champion of the British Amateur Boxing Association. In 2009 he came home and continues to set records, including the fastest knockout in a regional competition, and to entertain the crowd with his provocative style.
Twenty-one year old Zainab Kaita has wanted to box for as long as she can remember. “When I was little I watched Layla Ali fighting and I wanted to fight.” But her Aunt, who brought her up, did not approve. This did not stop Zainab – she snuck out and trained with the men at the National Stadium. “I became strong, I got a confidence from boxing.” Fearless in the ring, she has the winning combination of mobility, technique and power that has led her to beat every opponent she has faced.
Mohammed Sillah, an up and coming fighter from Guinea, followed his boxing mentor, Coach Pisting, back to Sierra Leone after the war to continue training with him. At 21, he demonstrates excellent handspeed, light footwork, strong defensive skills and total confidence in the ring.
As the Olympic trials come up, boxers all over the African continent are vying for 53 quota spots in London.
In Sierra Leone, this group of young, committed boxers is fighting to get to the Olympics.
In Sierra Leone, there is no funding or corporate sponsorship; there is sometimes not even enough money for nutritious food or transport fares. There is just heart and dedication.
Sierra Leone’s boxers have talent, training and commitment. But they do not have plane tickets to the Olympic trials in Morocco (men) and China (women).
The Olympics is founded on a philosophy of “taking part”. If you are born in a country which cannot sponsor its athletes, should this mean you cannot take part?
The only way these talented young athletes will have a chance to take part is if we can raise the money for their flights to the African Olympic trials in Morocco and China. With the start of the trials in less than 5 days, we need to raise money NOW.
Imagine Sierra Leone winning a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. It is possible! With your help!