MORNINGTON Peninsula boxers Caitlin Parker and Tyla McDonald represent the changing face of the once-male-dominated sport and have already made sporting history.
Parker and McDonald recently qualified for the Paris Olympics by winning gold in their weight divisions at the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, making it the first time that two female boxers from the same gym have qualified for one particular Olympics.
Parker, 26, from Dromana, is also the first female to qualify for two Olympics in boxing, having already competed in Tokyo as well as two Commonwealth games.
She has a record of athletic accomplishment, including winning medals at junior, youth and elite ages levels at international boxing competitions.
Parker was recently awarded Athlete of the Year, the Combat Spirit award, and Boxing Athlete of the Year by the Combat Institute of Australia, the organisation that oversees the high-performance programs for all Olympic combat sports in Australia, including boxing, judo, taekwondo, wrestling and fencing.
“It feel so incredible to qualify for a second Olympic Games. The Olympics is everything to me; I’ve been obsessed for so long,” she said.
“I’m so grateful to have qualified so that I can now focus on everything I need to do over the next seven months to have my absolute best performances in Paris and hopefully win Australia’s first ever Olympic gold medal in boxing.”
McDonald, 20, from Somerville, a four-time Victorian champion and four-time national champion as well as a Sport Australia Hall of Fame scholarship holder (2022), said qualifying for the Olympics was “surreal”.
“It hasn’t even sunk in yet that I’ve actually qualified for the Olympics. I’ve trained so hard in the lead up to these qualifiers, so I can say my hard work has definitely paid off and I couldn’t be happier,” she said.
The Frankston-born boxer, who started her sporting life as a netballer, took up boxing to improve her fitness, strength and footwork, but fell in love with it.
The two women, who both train at Mornington’s Peninsula Boxing, are achieving success under the guidance of former boxer and current coach Marcos Armado, who said they worked hard at their fitness and skill and deserved success.
Armado said boxing was now “an even playing field”, with female boxers rising through the ranks and showing they have the skill, determination and staying power to make it to the top.
Armado said the women supported each other and were both driven by their love of the sport.
“To tell you the truth, I prefer training the females as there is less ego involved, and they help and support each other,” he said.
“It’s a fascinating sport to watch and we are so proud of these girls.”