In every major sports meeting, be it the Olympics, Commonwealth Games or World Championships, an athlete emerges that nobody had given much thought to in the past.
They come in confident in their own ability, but unheralded within the public space. They conquer their opponents, win the hearts and minds of the Australian public, and become the champions of not only today, but tomorrow as well.
Justin Lacey has no doubt that he has such an athlete. He runs a boxing gym – the premier boxing gym in Perth. He’s had 95 fights himself and has seen scores of fighters come through his doors. He’s done and seen it all, and he’s certain that he has a medallist in his midst.
His name is Charlie Senior.
Senior makes his Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham. Born in Bradford in the north west of England, he still carries the hint of a Yorkshire twang in his accent, but having been a resident of Australia since the age of two, there is no doubt that he carries the Southern Cross proudly with him whenever he competes.
He returns to the country of his birth with one goal in mind. He has the utmost respect for those that he will fight against, but the steel and confidence is unmistakeable in his voice as he states: “I’m going there to bring gold back to Australia with me”.
No ifs, no buts.
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It would be wrong to look upon Charlie Senior as an overnight sensation. Indeed, whatever success that comes his way in Birmingham will have been hard-earned over a decade of slavish dedication to his training and his craft.
His time in the ring has brought him four national championships, three of those before the age of 15. His five Western Australian state titles and four Golden Gloves championships speak to a rapacious will to win allied to the natural talent that he undoubtedly possesses.
For all that though, he also carries with him to Birmingham the pain that accompanies the knowledge that a Tokyo Olympic berth was so close to his grasp, but yet so far away.
Denied by a shot from a Vietnamese opponent in the trials, coupled with a referee that stopped the fight where others may have not been quite so hasty, he failed to qualify.
The usual repechage that was to occur in Paris was then cancelled, another victim of the scourge that is COVID-19. Senior’s last chance of an place on the Australian team for Tokyo was thus denied, and the dream lost.
“It was a big hit to the heart,” Senior said..
“But I wore it. I needed to decide whether the sacrifice was worth it to carry on, but after the qualifications I had time to sit down with myself.
“I was adamant that I needed to go to the Nationals and then to Birmingham. I made myself get up.”
Now, with the Games imminent, Charlie Senior is as driven as he has ever been. His preparation has seen him fight sharp and strong opponents from nations such as India and Great Britain; boxing factories that lead the way in the bantamweight division in which he will compete.
When the Games are done, turning professional could be an option.
“It’s certainly on the agenda,” Senior said.
“The World Championships are only a year away, so it’s a question of whether I stay on to do that first, but before that there’s a job to be done in Birmingham.”
Justin Lacey is steadfast in his confidence. “Oh he’ll medal”, he stated with the certainty of a mentor that has walked every step with his charge and seen him through the joys of success as well as the pitfalls of disappointment.
Charlie Senior is equally adamant that the medal will be gold in colour, and woe betide any opponent that stands in his way. For in his mind, and in his heart, this is his destiny.
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