“It’s scary to quit your job and pursue this very big dream”
Always only at the foot of the hills or her boxing career, Jenny Lehane knows a thing or two about what’s involved when she steps under the lights to take on an opponent. She knows the locker room exit and how even then, at this late stage, her mind can play tricks on her. How negative thoughts, careful thinking, can seek to bring it down.
“A lot of demons can get into your head when you’re getting ready for a fight or when you’re walking to the ring. It’s about putting your thoughts aside and saying you’ve done the job. It’s about getting out and to show that you can do the job and just enjoy it – and I really like that. It shows when I fight, I think, especially when I fight well.
Besides being a boxer, Jenny is a teacher. The 23-year-old worked at St Mary’s National School in Ashbourne and when the school year ended a few weeks ago she walked out of class and entered a new, more uncertain phase of her life. life.
She hopes to be back in class at some point in her life, but it won’t be in September. Instead, she chose to focus full time on becoming the best boxer she could be. It’s a drastic move, but she’s determined to give everything she can to hone her skills and achieve her big ambition of representing Ireland at the 2024 Olympics.
“It’s scary to leave work and go after this really big, really big dream, but I’ve always said I’m not afraid to fail. What I’m afraid of is looking ahead. back in a few years with regret and wondering what I could have been and what I could have done. I don’t want to have to do that.
So the sympathetic and affable young man of 23 years launches. She will charge forward and seek to make her mark in a tough sport that has been described as “the toughest and loneliest in the world” by Frank Bruno. There is another quote that relates to Jenny Lehane’s situation and is attributed to one of the greatest ever – Muhammad Ali. “He who is not brave enough to take risks will accomplish nothing.”
Jenny Lehane is ready to step out of her comfort zone; take that risk.
Jenny Lehane never had the burning ambition to be a boxer. It kind of happened, her journey in the ring was aided by the fact that she grew up immersed in martial arts, especially taekwondo, the Korean discipline characterized by punching and kicking techniques, with an emphasis on head-high kicks, jumping and fast kicks. kicking techniques.
She is one of eight members of a family, including her mother and father, Pauline and Seamus Lehane. Jenny is “hit in the middle”, the fourth eldest of six youngsters in the family “or the third youngest” she quickly adds with a laugh. From the age of four, she was involved in martial arts. It has become a sort of family tradition.
“My family is very fond of taekwondo and that’s how I got started in combat sports. My eldest brother (Seamus) started taekwondo when he was six years old. Young children in a family tend to follow the sport that their older siblings participate in and that’s what I did. Taekwondo is a big thing in our house. At one time, all eight of us were training. We were all involved in the River Valley Taekwon-Do club.
Jenny turned out to be pretty good at that too. She started international competition at 15 and became senior European champion in 2018 and 2019. She won silver at the 2013 world junior championships and bronze in the senior category four years later. She has also participated in international kickboxing competitions. His sister Sarah is a major presence in taekowndo. She is a world champion and has won several European titles.
Yet it wasn’t until she went to Dublin City University that Jenny started to become a boxer. at least that section of the sport governed by the rules of the Marquess of Queensberry.
“I never planned on pursuing a career as a boxer, but there was a boxing club in college. I had always wanted to try it and in my second year of college, I just went down and did some testing – I think at the time I was taking a break from taekwondo training. I immediately fell in love with it and carried on from there.”
She worked with trainer Derek Ahern and progressed quickly. She loves how boxing can take her “to another zone”.
She is now doing “three or four years” of boxing and she has also achieved a lot. She became Irish national elite champion and Celtic Box Cup elite champion in 2021. She has also performed well in tournaments in Sweden and London. She represented Ireland at the Nicolae-Linca Golden Belt multi-nation tournament in Romania and won a bronze medal, among other feats.
She progressed in the sport in other ways. After winning the elite national championships, he was asked to join the high performance unit at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown. It was a vindication of his hard work; a chance to train with the best in the sport, to prepare well for the fights.
Graduating as a teacher, she worked at St Mary’s for a year, replacing another teacher on maternity leave, but came to the conclusion that in order to achieve her “ultimate goal of qualifying for the Paris Olympics in 2024”, she should go full-time. So she made the bold decision to put her day-to-day career on hold.
“I will follow this Olympic dream and try to turn it into reality, I will put all my eggs in one basket and really go for it. I have my diploma and I have completed my initiation period as a teacher I hope to be able to return to teaching in a few years with memories and stories to share with my future classes.”
There is a new challenge in all of this. How to maintain. She is looking for people, business opportunities, to sponsor her.
“I will be living at home, my family will support me in that regard, house, food on the table and so on, those are the extra things I would need in terms of recovery, nutrition, physio, funding for international camps.”
There is government funding but there are strict criteria surrounding it all and as she is only relatively new to the boxing scene she has to build a profile.
“I’m looking for companies to join me and join me on the journey, follow me as I go” is how she puts it.
Her immediate goal is to become the elite Irish national champion at 54 kilos. This would put her in a strong position to be selected into Irish teams to compete internationally – and there she can pick up the points she needs to qualify for the Olympics. That’s the plan.
“Next year is the qualifying year. The qualifying part is done by a points system, the way you finish in different competitions is worth a different number of points. If you get a bronze medal, you get as much points, so does silver. Gold is obviously worth more points.”
While so many teachers across the country are enjoying their summer break, Jenny Lehane has already embarked on her “new career.” She has just taken part in an international training camp in Belfast. Later, there will be other camps, other competitions.
She is ready for what is asked. Ready to face the “demons” that prevent her from realizing her cherished ambition. She knows something about what it takes to dispel those demons and really go for it.