Aoife O'Rourke goes down fighting in narrow defeat to second seed Li

Rio bronze medallist Qian Li of China won a unanimous decision against the Roscommon middleweight.

O'Rourke gave Li plenty to think about in a tight contest.
O'Rourke gave Li plenty to think about in a tight contest.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

AOIFE O’ROURKE WAS left to rue the luck of the Olympic draw after she lost a tight, but ultimately unanimous, decision against the middleweight division’s second seed, Qian Li of China.

O’Rourke took the fight to her more experienced, more decorated opponent throughout this morning’s contest at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to sway the judges in her favour.

Instead it is Li — bronze medallist in Rio five years ago, and the 2018 world champion — who progresses to the quarter-finals and a medal bout against Pooja Rani of India.

“It’s not the result I wanted today,” O’Rouke said afterwards. “I was beaten by the better girl and everything is a learning curve.

“I’m here in Tokyo. Six years ago, my goal probably would have been for Paris 2024 and I’m lucky enough that I got into this Olympic cycle and I’ll go back to the gym now and work for Paris 2024.”

Ireland’s hopes in the ring now rest on the three remaining boxers: Kellie Harrington, who begins her campaign in the early hours of Friday morning, and Aidan Walsh and Kurt Walker, who have already booked places in their respective quarter-finals.

Castelrea’s O’Rourke, 24, set out with intent on her Olympic debut and had the better of the opening exchanges, with Li more than happy to fight off the back foot and pick her shots.

But Li asserted herself as the first round wore on and ultimately did just enough to shade proceedings, with three judges scoring it in her favour versus two who gave it to O’Rourke.

The balance of the fight swung away from the Irish fighter in an absorbing second round, O’Rourke’s left jab finding its mark on more than one occasion, but the judges ultimately favoured Li’s counter-punching style to score it in her favour on all five cards.

From there, O’Rourke’s task became immeasurably more difficult and Li closed out the final round for a unanimous decision, 30-27 x 3 and 29-28 x 2.

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“We had a good plan going in,” O’Rourke said.

“I put the pressure on her, hoping that she’d back down a bit, but again she just picked me off. She was the better girl on the day. Everything is a learning curve. You learn every day. I’ll take it on the chin, go back to the gym and keep working.

She added: “Tokyo has been brilliant. We’ve had an amazing atmosphere. Everyone’s been great.

“I’m going to go back and cheer on everyone now the way they cheered on me today. There’s been a great buzz about the place.”

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Niall Kelly

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