Nicole Clyde started boxing at the age of nine in her hometown of Antrim. Ten years later, the left-hander is in Birmingham dreaming of winning gold for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.
It was Nicole’s father David who was her original inspiration to enter the ring, but his daughter says he can’t watch her fights right now.
The 19-year-old is charming and honest. Mention the Olympics to teenage sports stars and they often get weak knees. But not with Clyde, who declares that they are not all for her.
The focus of the young woman who has won Irish Under 14, Under 16, Under 18 and Under 22 titles is the Commonwealth Games.
“When I found out that I was chosen, it was a great feeling, because I have been striving for this for four years,” says the youngest woman on the Team NI boxing team.
“I told people I was going to Birmingham so when it became official it was amazing.
“I use it as a great experience, but I would also like to get a medal. The whole reason you’re competing is to try and win Commonwealth gold, so I’d love to come home with a title. This is what you work for.”
Clyde, who will fight in Birmingham in the 48kg division, has come a long way since he started.
“I have been doing sports all my life, running, playing football or hockey, doing something all the time. I started boxing when I was nine years old, shortly before my 10th birthday,” she says with great enthusiasm.
“It was with the Antrim Boxing Club and they were based in the parish center of St. Comgall at the time.
“Every night when the boxing club was open, they had to bring punching bags and set up the ring themselves, because they could only use the hall for an hour or two, and then everything had to be taken away and deposited.
“My dad boxed when he was 11 or 12 years old and he showed me his exhibition medals. He told me stories about fights in various community centers and that attracted me to boxing.
“I love everything about it: the training, the hard work, the discipline and the structure. You have to keep striving for the best.”
Nicole’s father took her to his first fight, though Pauline’s mom has since taken on the role.
Clyde recalls: “When I first started, my mom told my dad, ‘If you take her to boxing and fights, you have to take her with you. My dad said, “Yeah, that’s great,” and then my dad took me to my first fight and said, “No, I’m never going to do that again,” so my mom has been coming to all my fights in Ireland ever since.
“My dad doesn’t go to my fights anymore. He’s so turned on and nervous about it.”
Asked if David will be in Birmingham, Nicole replies: “No, he’s actually staying at home. He couldn’t do it. He said, “No Nicole, my nerves won’t let me do it,” so my mom, my siblings, my brother’s partner and my little nephew will come, so I’ll get a lot of support.”
Inspired by Katie Taylor, Kelly Harrington and Tyson Fury, Clyde has a natural ability that has helped her win six Ulster titles.
“I like to look good. I wouldn’t go fully armed preparing for war. I like to take my time, weigh everything and shoot whenever possible,” she says when asked about her style.
A teenager who works part-time at a newspaper shop in Antrim takes so much time to learn and hone her skills, admits her social life has failed.
“Sometimes my comrades can kill me, they always ask: “Are you coming out?” or “do you want to go eat?” and I have to say I can’t because I’m exercising,” says Nicole, who dropped out of school last year.
“One of my closest friends, Amy Adams, is used to it, so she’s happy enough to go with him. She supports me brilliantly and always watches my sparring videos.”
About the Olympics, she candidly adds, “I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympics. What happened to Ireland in Rio de Janeiro (2016) kind of set me on fire when I saw Michael Conlan and Kathy Taylor make tricky decisions. It distracted me a little from the Olympics. If it happens, it will happen, and of course the Olympics will be something cool to go for and gain experience, but in the end it’s not a big goal.”
In an effort to support athletic talent from Antrim, The Junction Retail and Leisure Park provided sponsorship to pay for Clyde’s travel expenses and training kit to ensure she is ready for the Commonwealth Games.
“Having Junction on board was a huge deal for me,” she explains.
“They helped me with the money to get me to and from training and my equipment, and they even put together a small assortment of merchandise to get my name out there. They couldn’t have done more for me before the Games.”
As always in the Commonwealth, Team NI is expected to do well.
“It’s a really good team with a lot of experience and young players like me,” says Nicole.
“We bond well and become a small family. We have been pointed out countless times that the main hopes for medals are placed on us. It hasn’t bothered any of us so far. We will go there and do what we do.”