Nicole Clyde started boxing at nine years of age in her home town of Antrim. A decade on, the southpaw is in Birmingham dreaming of winning gold for Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games.
It was Nicole’s dad David who was her initial inspiration to enter the ring but his daughter says he can’t watch her fights now.
The 19-year-old is engaging and honest. Mention the Olympics to teenage sports stars and they often go weak at the knees. Not with Clyde though, who declares they aren’t the be all and end all for her.
The focus for the young woman, who has won Irish titles at U14, U16, U18 and U22 level, is all on the Commonwealth Games.
“When I heard I was selected it was a brilliant feeling because I’ve been aiming for this for four years,” says the youngest female in the Team NI boxing squad.
“I’d been telling people that I was going to Birmingham so when it became official it was amazing.
“I will use it as a great experience but I would also love to get a medal. The whole reason you are competing is to try and win Commonwealth gold so I’d love to come home with the title. That’s what you work for.”
Clyde, who will fight at 48kg in Birmingham, has come a long way since starting out.
“I’ve been playing sport all my life, running around playing football or hockey, always doing something. I began boxing when I was nine, just before my 10th birthday,” she says with great enthusiasm.
“It was with Antrim Boxing Club and at the time they were based in St Comgall’s parish centre.
“Every night the boxing club was on, they had to bring punch bags in and put the ring up themselves because they were only able to use the hall for an hour or two and then everything had to be taken away and put into storage.
“My dad did boxing when he was 11 or 12 and he showed me his medals from exhibition fights. He would tell me stories about fighting in different community centres and that’s what got me interested in boxing.
“I love everything about it, the training, the hard work, the discipline and structure of it. You have to keep pushing to get better.”
Nicole’s father took her to her first fight, though mum Pauline has since taken over that role.
Clyde recalls: “When I first started, my mum said to my dad ‘if you are taking her to boxing and fights you are going to have to take her yourself’. My dad said ‘aye that’s grand’ and then my dad took me to my first fight and said ‘no I’m never doing that again’ so my mum has come to all my fights in Ireland ever since.
“My dad doesn’t go to my fights anymore. He gets so wound up and nervous about it.”
Asked if David will be Birmingham, Nicole says: “No, he’s actually staying at home. He couldn’t do it. He said ‘no Nicole my nerves wouldn’t let me do it’ so my mum, my brothers and sister, my brother’s partner and my wee nephew are coming over so I’ll have lots of support.”
Inspired by Katie Taylor, Kellie Harrington and Tyson Fury, Clyde has natural ability that has helped her win six Ulster titles.
“I like to look good. I wouldn’t go in all guns blazing ready to have a war. I like to take my time and weigh things up and shoot whenever there is an opportunity,” she says when quizzed on her style.
With so much time required for training and sharpening her skills, the teenager, who works part-time in a newspaper shop in Antrim, admits that her social life has taken a hit.
“Sometimes my mates could kill me, they are always going ‘are you coming out?’ or ‘do you want to go for food?’ and I have to say that I can’t because I’m training,” states Nicole, who left school last year.
“One of my closest mates Amy Adams has got used to it so she is happy enough to go with it. She is brilliant at supporting me and is always looking to see my sparring videos.”
On the Olympics, she adds candidly: “I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympics. What happened to Ireland in Rio (2016) sort of took the spark off it for me, seeing the likes of Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor get dodgy decisions. It put the Olympics off my radar a bit. If it happens it happens and of course the Olympics would be something class to go to and experience but at the end of the day it is not a massive goal.”
Keen to support sporting talent from Antrim, The Junction Retail and Leisure Park has provided sponsorship to pay for Clyde’s travel expenses and training kit to ensure she is fighting fit for the Commonwealth Games.
“Having the Junction on board has been massive to me,” she explains.
“They have helped me out with money to get me to and from training and my equipment, and they have even put together a wee merchandise range to get my name out there. They couldn’t have done any more for me ahead of the Games.”
As always at the Commonwealths, Team NI’s boxers will be expected to deliver.
“It is a really good squad with lots of experience and young ones like myself,” says Nicole.
“We are bonding well and becoming a wee family. It has been pointed out to us countless times that we are the main medal hopes. That hasn’t annoyed any of us so far. We will go out there and do what we do.”