• Noongar man, Alex Winwood says he hopes to be as good as Lionel Rose as the 22 year old waits for his chance to make his Olympic debut. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
A Noongar boxer is primed to make his dreams of competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games come true, despite its postponement due to the coronavirus global pandemic.
Rangi Hirini

The Point
20 May 2020 - 2:12 PM  UPDATED 20 May 2020 - 2:12 PM

Noongar man, Alex Winwood has been dreaming of competing in the Olympics since he was a boy. He has been training as an amateur boxer for eight years and competing for seven years.

“For the first two years, I was just falling in love with the sport, I was only young back then, and then I realised that we could go to the Games,Mr Winwood told NITV’s The Point. 

Four years ago, the young man from Mandurah had his dream crushed when he missed out on making the Rio Olympic team.

“It was pretty gut-wrenching at the time, I was quite young, I was 19 years old. So I didn't have a lot of experience and obviously I thought I could go all the way,” says Mr Winwood.

“It was only a matter of experience really, and that's what I’ve focused on for the three years after that,” he says. 

In February, his hard work and persistence paid off when Alex won his qualifying fight in the Asian nation of Jordan and made the Olympic team.

But five weeks later, the unthinkable happened.

Never before had the Olympic Games been postponed or cancelled for something other than war, but in March Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by a year.

Alex says he had just got home from competing in his qualifying fight when he received an email from the Australian Olympic Committee was pulling their athletes from the competition. 

I felt a bit cheated at the time," he says.

"But then, all the games got pushed back and I did think it was the best thing and I just start looking at the positives out of it, obviously, it is disappointing because I felt like I was just starting to hit real reform. But you know in another 12 months time I'm gonna be 12 months more experienced and hopefully with the right amount of training, getting the right guidance, I'm going to be a lot better,” Alex says.

Two-time Olympian and one of Australia’s greatest hurdlers Kyle Vander Kuyp is on the support staff for the Tokyo Squad.

The Yuin and Worimi man told NITV’s The Point the uncertainty around the event would be devastating for athletes whose lives are based around performing.

“It’s a huge blow for an athlete that really had the mindset and date in their mind for years and years,” Mr Vander-Kuyp says.

“So not just not just the effects of this year but an athlete would have been preparing for July 2020 to walk out in Tokyo,” he says.

While his competing days are done, Kyle is hoping he can use his experience to help the next generation, like Alex, to rise to the occasion.

“I’m gonna enjoy being on the other side of the fence and being that person that can make sure someone's experience is the best they can possibly get,” he said.

In the year 2000, sprinter Patrick Johnson was in the same boat as Alex Winwood, he was about to make his debut at the Sydney Olympics.

His best finish out of his three events was a 28th in the 200 metres. 

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While he has fond memories of that year, his advice to any young athlete is to always remember to stop and appreciate the moment.

“Oh, enjoy that atmosphere. If you have never walked in the stadium with 100,000 people it's the biggest roar I ever heard actually because in my first Olympics I'd never actually soaked it in,” Mr Johnson says.

“You know I went into tunnel vision, running the hundred meters you know it's all seriousness, so to me if I went back would have been enjoy that moment, because you may never get that again,” he says.

Like many athletes, this 22-year old has had a small break from training due to the coronavirus pandemic but Alex recently went back to training and is ready to bring home the gold.

“I'm a silent achiever so I like to do things in the background and then let my success make the noise,” Mr Winwood says.

Even though there’s still a risk of the games being completely cancelled altogether, it’s not going to stop the momentum of this flyweight from Mandurah. 

“We have to put everything into training to get the result that we want and to get that gold medal. And I just look back at Cathy Freeman's performance and every time I see something like that, it just makes me want to be the next one to go do something awesome like that,” Mr Winwood says.

- For more on this story, watch NITV's flagship current affairs program The Point tonight (Wednesday),Free To Air on Channel 34 at 8.30pm.