IRISH KICKBOXER SINEAD Beasley has just won two golds at the Wako World Championships, but it’s been a tough road for the star to reach this level.
The Dubliner triumphed in Rimini earlier this month, having come a long way since the time she was prevented from boxing at an early age owing to her gender.
“You’re talking 16 years ago, it was much more of a male sport,” she tells TheScore.ie. “The club that my brother was in, he was trying to get me into it, and I was told ‘no no, this is just for boys’.
“Back then, it was all boys’ clubs. There weren’t any girls. But Katie Taylor has changed it all now.”
After being denied the chance to box, the Irish athlete from Clarehall subsequently took up kickboxing at the age of 11, and she has barely looked back since.
Beasley, who also works as a personal trainer at TRX studios, admits to being somewhat taken aback by her double gold in two separate styles — continuous fighting and points fighting — but she insists she didn’t lack self-belief going into the event.
“I was completely overwhelmed. I’ve gotten a few first places in continuous, so I was confident. I knew I was ready to take gold in that one.
“I couldn’t believe that I got where I wanted to go, but if you feel like you’re not going to win, there’s no point in fighting.
“You have to step up on that mat and say ‘I’m going to win this’ and take it one fight at a time.”
And despite her phenomenal achievement, the subsequent victory celebrations were low key. No supporters travelled, while the Irish athletes didn’t even all board the same flight, given that they had to pay their own way there and back — a reflection on the lack of funding that the sport currently receives.
“It is frustrating,” she says. “At the end of the day, we’re competing for our country and in our Irish gear with the national anthem. Every other country is getting recognition except us. I spoke to a girl who said that if she comes back with medals, she gets more funding.”
Beasley concedes that the numerous different styles of kickboxing doesn’t help matters when it comes to funding, while also lamenting the media’s reluctance to cover the sport in depth.
“We don’t get anything, there’s a bit in the paper, that’s about it. It’s televised in other countries, but it’s not televised here. My Dad does lots of videos and things like that, but without him we’d be lost.”
Nevertheless, aside from the lack of media coverage, there was a further reason why the Irish team’s celebrations were low key — the Wako European Championships, which Beasley describes as her “Olympics,” is on the horizon. And she is consequently determined to retain an intense level of focus ahead of this momentous occasion in Slovenia next November.
“When I got home, I didn’t really rest. I kind of just took it [in my stride] and focused on the next one,” she says.
Moreover, her success is nothing new as far as Irish kickboxing is concerned. TheScore.ie last November spoke to Beasley’s coach, Robbie McMenamy, who is an acclaimed gold medal-winning kickboxer in his own right. The two are part of the elite Spartan Martial Arts club, and Beasley emphasised the importance of McMenamy’s role in guiding her rise to prominence.
“[Kickboxing] is like your family, it’s part of your life all the time. You’re close, you know each other inside out, especially for training. My coach… I wouldn’t be where I am without him. If I didn’t listen to him, I wouldn’t be in there fighting.
“He puts in so much effort and he’s forked out thousands. He puts so much time into our training and he’s also a clever fighter.”
Beasley reflects on how she got involved in kickboxing initially, recalling how “I was a little tomboy when I was younger, boxing the boys”. She loves the sport deeply and is optimistic that it can continue to thrive in the future. Furthermore, with several promising athletes currently coming through the ranks, she outlines what it is in her opinion that makes Irish people so successful and naturally adept at kickboxing, along with other types of competitive fighting.
“For outdoor sports, the weather [doesn't always suit us]. You want to get indoors and do some training. It’s stress-free when you’re training, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. I know my love for it is what has me.
She continues: “Our classes are jammed with kids, so it’s still popular despite the lack of funding.
“It’s all about self-discipline. They learn a lot. They learn a lot about themselves as well and they learn respect.”
Speaking of which, with two world gold medals to her name, as well as learning respect, Beasley undoubtedly has earned it.