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Kurt Walker ready and waiting for Rio Olympics boxing call

By Barney Kellaway

Lisburn boxer Kurt Walker has already marked out 2020 as the year he takes Olympic gold but is not yet ruling out making a late charge for Rio this summer.

Walker, who trains at Canal Boxing Academy, is fast emerging as a name to watch, not just in Ireland but overseas.

Last month he fought his way to the Irish Senior title for the second year running while 2015 saw him named as part of a 13-strong team of boxers who represented Team Ireland at the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

He just missed out on making the last 16, but it was an experience of top level boxing which whetted his appetite for more.

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Bantamweight Walker has always insisted Tokyo 2020is his main aim before turning professional, but such has been his rise he admits he has one eye on Rio in six months' time.

Ireland have already qualified a quota place through World and European champion Michael Conlan, but 20-year-old Walker intends to put his name in frame in case a scenario such as injury rules out his teammates.

"This year I'm going to try and qualify for Rio, it's going to be hard because someone has already qualified at my weight but I'm going to try my best to get there in case anything happens," said Walker, who benefits from being on the SSE Next Generation programme.

"If anything happened and he loses his place then I want to go. If he drops out or something happens then I am ready.

"If that doesn't pay off then I'll go to Tokyo in 2020. I know I'll definitely be going there. I don't want to win any other medal than gold. I'm not interested in the others. I'm from Ireland and we're near enough the best fighting country in the world so we're expected to win gold."

"After the Olympics I will definitely go professional, I'll only be 24 years -old. I want to get that gold medal before I think about that though."

The St Patrick's Academy pupil also retained his National Elite crown last year, further cementing his status as one of Ireland's leading young contenders.

And after mixing it with some of the world's best at last year's Europeans, he is confident he can continue his rise to the top.

"At the European Games there were Olympians and World Champions so it felt good to test myself against that kind of opposition," he added.

"Winning the Irish seniors was the highlight of my year, that's very hard to do and that means you're the best in your weight class in the whole of Ireland. It was good to get that win - now I've won it two years in a row so it's especially pleasing."

SSE's Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen.

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