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Rio Olympics: Michael Conlan certain his dream of a gold medal will become reality

By Sean McGoldrick

As Michael Conlan reflected on his winning debut in the Rio Olympics in the mixed zone on Sunday, his quarter-final opponent Vladimir Nikitin passed through.

Nobody noticed him other than Conlan who paused in mid-sentence, turned and shook hands with the man he has to beat in the Rio Centro today (3.30pm) to guarantee himself at least a bronze medal by securing a place in an Olympic semi-final for the second time in four years.

He was merely reciprocating what the Russian did when the pair met in the athletes' village shortly after the Games began.

It's as if they are deliberately seeking each other out as they attempt to gain a psychological edge before their showdown.

"He came and shook my hand during the week. I just felt his hand was weak. That does play a part. He was wandering around by himself, he seems to be a bit of a loner but it doesn't mean anything," said Conlan.

"He's a great fighter. He's took a lot of shots already in the tournament."

The pair clashed once before, in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Almaty in 2013 when Nikitin won a unanimous 3-0 decision on his way to picking up a silver medal.

"The Russian beat me in 2013 but I had only moved up into the division six days earlier. The first day we got here I went into the gym to train and I put it (the Nikitin fight) on You Tube and watched it on the cross-trainer. I completely out-boxed him, but they were just scoring aggressive back then," he suggests.

So far Conlan's campaign has worked out exactly as he had conjured up in his own mind, beating Armenia's Aram Avagyan on Sunday.

"I was running around the village with Steven Donnelly the first day we arrived here and I said to him 'I would love to fight Armenia in my first fight, and in my second fight I would love to fight Russia'. So my wish has come true," he said.

"As the tournament goes on, I get stronger and stronger. I think this will just stand me in good stead for the next fight."

With his partner Shauna, daughter Luisne and brother Jamie in the stands and his father John in his corner, he just needs to recapture something close to his best form today and a place in the Olympic semi-final on Thursday will be secured.

Belfast Telegraph


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