By Paul Eddison in Birmingham
Michaela Walsh has already established herself as the leader of a boxing dynasty and now has the chance to make it third time lucky at the Commonwealth Games.
The 29-year-old from Belfast first came to prominence when she lost a split decision to Olympic champion Nicola Adams on this stage in Glasgow in 2014, a heavily-disputed result against one of the sport’s golden girls.
It was a similar story four years later, where Walsh and younger brother Aidan, an Olympic bronze medallist last year in Tokyo, both had to settle for silver in the Gold Coast.
As they prepare for their second Commonwealth Games together, Michaela was an obvious choice as flag bearer for Team NI at Thursday’s opening ceremony at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium alongside lawn bowler Martin McHugh.
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Walsh said: “I’m looking forward to leading out the team, to be in the same team as my brother as well is an honour for me, we are the first brother and sister to compete in the Commonwealth and Olympics Games, this is our second Commonwealths together and overall my third so just looking forward to walking out the team and it being a great Games.
“I’m extremely proud of winning two silver medals and fingers crossed I can go all the way but I’m putting no pressure on myself. I have done everything correctly, but I’ll just take it one fight at a time, and I don’t want to look too far ahead.
“I maybe used to do that in the past but as I have matured as an athlete I have learned how to deal with these things.
“It is a great honour to be a flag bearer and a massive honour for me, I am going to be so proud not only representing myself but the rest of the team at Birmingham 2022.”
And yet when the call came through that Walsh had been selected, the first reaction from the featherweight was one of concern.
She explained: “I was a bit worried in case I was in trouble for something, I’m delighted to be selected because the athletes we have in this team are phenomenal and for me just to be nominated and selected is unbelievable and something I didn’t expect and it’s a great honour.”
Walsh will be joined on flag-bearer duties by McHugh, who will compete in his seventh Commonwealth Games.
In fact, she was just five when he claimed Commonwealth gold in Kuala Lumpur all the way back in 1998, with McHugh excited to be able to compete in front of his entire family, including wife Helen and son Jordan who are among those making the trip to Leamington Spa where the bowls will take place.
He added: “It’s a great honour and a great privilege and it is something that I have always dreamed of representing Northern Ireland and leading them out as a flag bearer and I just can’t wait to Thursday now.
“I was very emotional, I am still on cloud nine and I can’t wait until Thursday night to walk out in front of thousands of people.
“Each Commonwealth Games is unique but this one is now more unique because I’m getting to represent Northern Ireland and carry the flag.”
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