New Zealand boxers Alexis Pritchard (27) and Siona Fernandes (29) are to make history as the first female boxers to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games.
Pritchard (lightweight) and Fernandes, (flyweight) cemented their quota spots at last month's Women's World Amateur Championships in China and their selection to the Olympic team followed a series strong international performances over the past twelve months.
Kereyn Smith, Secretary General of the New Zealand Olympic Committee congratulates the two women named today and commends them for their consistent results.
"Both Alexis and Siona have credible international track records and I'm delighted we have two female boxers making Olympic history," she said.
"Alexis has fought well in significant international competitions over the past twelve months winning bronze medals in both Serbia and Tunisia as well as securing wins against world top ten athletes. She achieved a world ranking of 6th in 2011. Siona's world rankings placed her at 12th in 2011. This rank has been backed up by on-going strong performances in key world events over the Olympic qualification period."
Both athletes have demonstrated their capability to progress through the rounds in the boxing competition in the Olympic field and Boxing New Zealand Chair Dr John McKay says their results will be down to different strengths in the ring. "Alexis is tall and skinny with an incredible range. Siona is not as experienced but is a skilful boxer. She has progressed quickly and can deliver a good punch.
"Both athletes have the ability to surprise. If they have good fortune on their side and don't strike the number one in the world in their classes in their early rounds, they will definitely progress through the competition. They have skill, talent and attitude on their side."
Fernandes, who moved to New Zealand from Goa India five years ago, took up amateur boxing just two years ago. A classical Indian dancer with a bachelor's degree in performing arts and a master's in psychology Fernandes has both inside and talents outside the boxing ring.
"I'm really happy to be where I'm at and represent women's boxing in New Zealand," she said. "I'm absolutely committed to giving the Olympics my best shot and, god willing, things will work out. I'm aiming to make the country proud and fight one day at a time. That's the greatest thing about boxing - it's all about what happens on the day."
Pritchard was originally from Capetown, South Africa, and has been in New Zealand for twelve years. She is physiotherapist who fits in clients around her training and competition schedule. She is also a cake designer and decorator.
Her road to the Olympic Games has been tough, reports husband and coach Cameron Todd. "She always backed herself to qualify but she's had a hard international career and often gets the hard fights," he said. "That's what's moulded her into the boxer she is today."
Pritchard, who has been boxing since 2003, was delighted to be named to the Olympic team today. "I was over the moon," she said. "It's a very special thing to be one of the first women to compete in boxing at the Olympic Games."
Fernandes is coached by Chris Martin.
Boxing has a 116 year history at the Olympic Games and women will compete in the sport for the first time at London 2012.
The first female Olympic boxers will fight in three weight categories: Flyweight (48-51kg), Lightweight (57-60kg) and Middleweight (69-75kg).
The Kiwi women will be the only New Zealand boxers at London 2012 after the males narrowly missed qualifying spots with top 8 finishes at this year's World Championships and failing to win their respective divisions at the Oceania Champs.
Pritchard and Fernandes will join New Zealand athletes from Judo and Taekwondo who will represent New Zealand at the ExCel Centre at the London Olympic Games.
There have been 25 Olympic boxers representing New Zealand at 14 Olympic Games, beginning in 1924. There have been three New Zealand Olympic boxing medals. The gold, silver and bronze medals were won by Ted Morgan (gold, 1928 Amsterdam), Kevin Barry (silver, 1984 Los Angeles) and David Tua (bronze, 1992 Barcelona).
New Zealand boxers last competed at Athens 2004.