London will host the rescheduled Boxing Road to Tokyo European Olympic Qualifying event in April next year as UK Sport announces the first events of its 2021 programme supporting athletes as they prepare for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Scheduled for 22-26 April 2021, the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will remain as the host venue for the event following the suspension of the tournament back in March due to Covid-19.
The event will resume from where it was left and feature 178 bouts over the course of the five days with 176 boxers taking part and 77 qualification slots for Tokyo available, however at this stage it is expected to take place without spectators.
The Boxing Road to Tokyo Olympic Qualifying event in London is an International Olympic Committee (IOC) event which is supported by funding from the National Lottery and The Mayor of London and will be delivered in association with a range of partners including UK Sport, GB Boxing, the British Olympic Association (BOA), the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and IOC Boxing Task Force.
GB Boxing’s Performance Director, Rob McCracken said: “It is very rare that our boxers get to compete in the UK and they were looking forward to the original event so it was a big disappointment when it was suspended before the majority of the team had the chance to box. The news that the event is returning to London is great for the team. After a period of uncertainty, it has given all of the boxers a goal to aim towards and we will be working hard to make sure they are in the best possible shape when the qualifier starts again next year.”
Reigning middleweight world champion, Lauren Price, added: “This is fantastic news for all of us in the GB Boxing team. The first event being suspended before many of us, including myself, got the chance to box was a massive disappointment. I went into the original qualifier on the back of a great run of form and my preparation had been excellent, so it was a blow when the event was stopped, although we soon realised it was the only option in the circumstances. Having confirmed dates for the re-scheduled event and knowing it is coming back to London is great news and has given all of the boxers a boost. Even without spectators, having the event on home soil is good news and means we don’t have to travel as much and will be competing in a familiar environment.”
UK Sport have worked closely with UK government to develop the guidance which has enabled elite sport to return to competition during Covid-19. In addition, Manchester’s Wythenshawe Forum will host the Para Powerlifting World Cup from 22-28 March 2021, which is another key event for athletes to secure ranking points as they bid to qualify for Tokyo.
Commonwealth silver medallist, Louise Sugden, went on adding: “After the success of the Manchester 2020 Para Powerlifting World Cup, I’m incredibly excited to hear this event will be returning in 2021 thanks to the support from Manchester City Council, British Weightlifting and UK Sport. The organisation of this event in 2020 was absolutely world class and, as a result, it was a great competition to be part of from an athlete’s perspective. It gives us an opportunity to compete after such a long period without competitions and provides something to work towards without the stress and challenges involved in international travel.
“The competition will provide a brilliant opportunity for Great Britain’s athletes looking to secure qualification to the postponed Paralympic games and invaluable experience for the next generation of British Para Powerlifting athletes. It is always an honour to have the opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd filled with family and friends and I hope, if I’m selected, I can produce another performance to be proud of which will contribute to my qualification for Tokyo 2021.”
These events join UK Sport’s 2021 programme of National Lottery funded events that will support the preparation of British athletes for Tokyo. Already included is the UCI Track Cycling Nations’ Cup, to be held in Newport from 22-25 April 2021 and the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds from 5-6 June 2021 while the Wheelchair Rugby Quad Nations is also set to take place in the spring.
The UCI Track Nations’ Cup – delivered in partnership with British Cycling, Welsh Government and Newport Live – will be the first elite-level international track cycling event to be held at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales since 2013 and also the opening round of the inaugural event since the restructure of the international cycling calendar by UCI. At this stage, this event is also expected to be held without spectators.
The AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds – delivered in partnership with British Triathlon, Leeds City Council and World Triathlon – will mark the fifth anniversary of the race being run in the city and for the first time will see elite paratriathletes take to the start line for the World Paratriathlon Series.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was quoted as saying: “London is the sporting capital of the world and it’s fantastic that our city will host Europe’s best boxers as they compete for a place at the Tokyo Games. I hope this is just the start of world-class live sporting events returning to London.”
Acting Deputy Director of Major Events, Esther Britten, said: “The announcement of the Boxing Road to Tokyo Olympic Qualifying event being rescheduled for London in April is a great first step as we look to get back to hosting events that will help British athletes qualify and prepare for Tokyo next year. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the International Olympic Committee earlier this year and, along with the Mayor of London, GB Boxing, the BOA and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, are very much looking forward to doing the same again.
“We are also very proud to be awarded the Para Powerlifting World Cup by the International Paralympic Committee. We are determined to give athletes the best possible chance to prepare and qualify for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and we know the Para Powerlifting World Cup is an important event as part of that build up. The UCI Track Nations’ Cup and AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds have already been announced by British Cycling and British Triathlon and it is great to now be incorporating these into our events programme for 2021. We are looking forward to working closely with all stakeholders to ensure these events are held safely and a success for athletes and everyone else involved.”