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The trailblazing Irish athlete who's just become a world champion

Bray’s Amy Wall has taken the kickboxing world by storm.

Amy Wall recently became a world champion.
Amy Wall recently became a world champion.

SHE MAY not be a household name, but Amy Wall is one of the most successful Irish athletes competing on the international stage at present.

Last month, in Jesolo Lido, Venice, the Bray fighter became the first Irish woman ever to win gold in a ring sport at the WAKO Kickboxing World Championships.

So for those unfamiliar, kickboxing is divided into two categories, each of which has multiple disciplines –’tatami sports’ and ‘ring sports’. More info on the differences between the two can be found here.

Ireland has traditionally been strong in tatami and weaker in ring — that is, until Wall arrived on the scene.

The 21-year-old’s achievement was all the more remarkable when you consider that she is a relative newcomer to the sport at senior level — she estimates having been involved in around five fights before competing at the Worlds, beginning just before the onset of the pandemic.

It is her third WAKO title overall though, having previously triumphed at junior level in 2016 and 2018.

But without a doubt, this latest achievement is comfortably the biggest of her career to date.

“This was something that was kind of to be worked on over a number of years,” she tells The42. “So for it to happen as quickly as it did was a bit of a shock.”

Going into the event, she admits, her ambitions were fairly modest.

“I had in my head that the aim was to win one fight, and just enjoy it and gain the experience. After I won the first fight, I knew then that I had a tough second fight. Once I won the second fight, going into the final, I kind of was like: ‘We can do this but it’s going to be tough.’ When I won then, I’d say it was a bit of an upset alright because a lot of the girls were a lot older and more experienced in the seniors than I would have been.”

So against the odds, Wall overcame 34-year-old Hungarian kickboxer Renata Rakoczi in the final.

“I had seen she had fought on the circuit for a while and I would have seen a bit of footage of her. She was tough. She could take a lot of shots and she kept coming forward. But I was able to read her a little bit and see what she was doing, just use tactics and be able to work around it that way. It was a great fight now, I really enjoyed it.

“I think I was shocked [to win] and a lot of the team were shocked. It doesn’t happen that often when you’re in seniors [and enjoy great success] quickly.

“There were messages flying in, my phone was just going mad. Everyone was genuinely really happy for me, it was mad to see the amount of support.”

While Wall may seem like an overnight sensation, she actually has been competing in combat sports most of her life.

Aged four, the youngster took up karate. She was eager to try kickboxing too, but her local club did not permit her to fight until the age of 10.

By now, Wall reckons she has participated in “hundreds” of competitions, travelling to many different countries in the process.

Of her initial experience with sport, she explains: “Something clicked. I was in ballet and my mum had to take me out. She put me into karate and I loved it from the first day. 

“But once I got into the kickboxing, and I’ve done all the disciplines like points fight, continuous, and once I got to the ring, I knew that’s where I belonged.”

PHOTO-2021-11-08-16-23-42

Taekwondo, boxing and football were among the other sports a young Wall enjoyed, but they ultimately fell by the wayside as the demands of her primary ambition became more intensive.

Not that she still doesn’t take inspiration from other sports.

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“I love Katie Taylor because she’s from Bray and I got to train with her before. I just think everything she’s done to date has been amazing.”

Wall currently balances kickboxing training in Cabra — usually six days a week twice a day in the lead up to a tournament — with her studies. She is now in the final year of a degree in primary school teaching at Marino College, where she receives a sports grant owing to her prowess.

With no one to spar with or motivate her, Wall found the period where the nation went into lockdown last year particularly tough, but she ultimately emerged from the experience stronger.

“Sometimes I’m my own hardest critic. Even though I’m winning stuff I always want to better myself. Sometimes I need to just accept that I’ve won and done well and take it as a good achievement rather than putting myself down. That’s the thing that I used to do a lot. But I’m getting a bit better at it now.

“I think I’ve matured definitely since before Covid. Now that I’m in the seniors, I just feel like I have a more positive outlook on things and I’m just a lot calmer even in the prep. Before getting into the fights this time around, I just felt a different person was there than usual. I was just nice and calm and just ready to enjoy it. I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself, just to go in and give it a good go.”

In the grand scheme of things, therefore, the period of reflection that the Covid crisis prompted proved beneficial.

“It definitely was because I realised that even though I couldn’t go training, I still loved to do what I had to do and I didn’t need someone pushing me to make sure I loved it. I knew then, if I can push myself this long, I’ll still love it.”

Wall will next attempt to secure qualification for the European Olympic Games, which take place in 2023 in Poland.

Perhaps the one downside to her rise is the lack of media coverage that kickboxing generally receives, meaning the talented fighter is still a relatively unheralded figure in the Irish sporting landscape. Not that Wall is overly fussed though.

“I’m quite a quiet person, so I don’t really like all the attention and hype. I got a lot more coverage [recently]. I did a radio interview, I did this. And for me, it’s kind of out of my comfort zone.

“Now I’m thinking it’s good to get the coverage as well though I understand that compared to boxing and stuff, it’s definitely not as put out there. But it doesn’t really affect me too much. I just do it because I love it. I don’t need other people’s praise.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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