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Island boxer Smith jabs one punch closer to Paris Olympics

Greater Victoria fighter into quarter-finals at last-chance qualifier in Thailand.
Terris Smith advanced to the quarter-finals of the women’s 60-kilo class at the last-chance Olympic qualifier in Bangkok. SUBMITTED

Terris Smith, an accountant by vocation and boxer by passion, continued her quest to punch her way to Paris by opening the last-chance Olympic qualifier with a victory Monday in Bangkok, Thailand.

The 31-year-old Canadian champion, who used to live in Langford but now calls Sidney home, defeated Aslahan Mehmedova of Bulgaria 3-0 on points in the Round of 16 to advance to the quarter-finals of the women’s 60-kilo class.

“I won against Bulgaria today but have a tough fight ahead of me against Great Britain’s [2022] Commonwealth Games gold-medallist [Amy Broadhurst] on Wednesday,” said Smith, by e-mail. “But they are all tough. I am going to stick to what I’m good at and have my best performance yet.”

Team Canada coach Samir (Sammy) ElMais agreed.

“Terris followed the game plan perfectly,” ElMais said in a statement. “She was able to cut the ring perfectly and land her rear hand with authority. … Her confidence showed and now everyone knows she’s a threat.”

With an outside job crunching numbers, it hasn’t been easy crunching opponents inside the ring, at her age.

“I have a lot of support at work,” Smith has told the Times Colonist.

“If it’s not this Olympics, it won’t be the next one [Los Angeles 2028],” she said, realistically.

Her climb has been steady yet sure, winning four B.C. championships, and bronze at the 2022 Canadian championships following a contested 3-2 split decision in the semifinals. Smith won the silver medal at the 2019 national championships held on Bear Mountain when she was stopped in the final by 2015 Pan Am Games gold-medallist Caroline Veyre of Montreal. Smith finally became Canadian champion this year to earn her spot in the Olympic qualifier for Paris.

Smith has been coached by Jason Heit since she began ­boxing eight years ago. Heit, a well-known mentor in the Victoria fight community, boxed for Canada in the 1995 Pan Am Games and just missed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by one spot before turning pro. He might just get to live the Olympic dream through Smith.

Boxing is popular worldwide and one of the toughest sports in which to qualify for the Olympics. Up to 50 Island or Island-based athletes usually qualify to compete for Canada in each Summer Olympics but Smith is vying to be the first Island boxer in the Olympics since Donnie Orr Jr. in 2000 at Sydney.

Smith is among nine Canadian boxers at the last-chance qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics. They are trying to join pre-qualified Canadians Tammara Thibeault at 75 kilos and Wyatt Sanford at 63.5 kilos, who earned their Olympic berths for Paris by winning gold medals in the 2023 Santiago Pan Am Games.

Canada, which has not won an Olympic medal in boxing since 1996 at Atlanta, had five boxers in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, including 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Thibeault and Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist Sanford.

PARIS NOTES: The North Cowichan-based defending Tokyo Olympic-champion Canadian women’s rowing eight served notice it is prepared to defend its title in Paris by winning the World Cup II regatta Sunday in Lucerne, Switzerland.

What was most impressive was that Olympic gold-medallist Avalon Wasteneys, the University of Victoria Vikes product from Campbell River, was unable to row due to illness and was replaced without a hitch by spare Kristen Siermachesky.

“Jumping into the boat, I felt supported and driven by the entire squad,” Siermachesky said in a statement.

— With files from The Canadian Press