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Interview, Profile piece

Fighting in a man’s sport

Originally published in FUSE Magazine, February 2011

Bianca Elmir Is Fighting in a Man’s Sport. Kickboxing isn’t a sport one often associates with women and 2012 will be the first year women are allowed to compete in it the Olympics. Yet, one Canberran hasn’t been deterred by the male dominance of the game.

Bianca Elmir has been kickboxing for ten years, boxing for two years and was recently crowned the Oceania boxing champion. With this title under her belt, she now has her sights set on London. As she heads into the next phase of her career, Simon Copland had a chat with this rising Canberran star.

What is it about kickboxing that draws you to the sport? 

I think there are many layers to my attraction to boxing. Originally it was about having a channel to put my energy into. My previous kickboxing coach tells a story of how I entered the gym and announced that my soccer coach thinks that I should choose a sport where I am allowed
to hit people!

Since then it has become a lifestyle for me — I’ve made lots of friends at my gym and it’s become my little hub. I now see my training and sport as an art form — it is like other martial arts, a dance where every intricate move put together at the right time can produce something beautiful.

What’s it like being a woman in such a male dominated sport? 

Boxing has been described to me as ‘leather and lace’ — which for me is exciting! I like pushing social norms, so the fact that it’s so “out there” is cool!

However, there are some drawbacks with being in such a small minority. For instance, it’s really hard to find matches in Australia, especially at my weight division. There are a lot of promoters who will hesitate to put you on their shows because they think that it won’t bring the crowds even if it’s in your own town. And as a woman you are less likely to be paid to fight even if you are as good as or better than your male counterparts.

Of course many people still have the attitude the ring is not a place for females. Being the only female in my gym, you have to have thick skin and put up with some pretty awful jokes, but I like that larrikin environment.

You recently became the Oceania champion and are now looking towards the Olympics — what’s it going to take to get you there? 

Winning the Oceania championship was a real turning point in my career. It was my first international competition to be in and win. The fight also proved to me that I had the ability to aim further and I haven’t looked back since.

I think being able to compete in the Olympics is the ultimate. Of course it’s about patriotism but beyond that it is about setting high goals and reaching them. The Olympics is one high goal! This will be the very first time that Women’s boxing will feature in the Olympics too so that also makes it really exciting.

I am really lucky to be living in Canberra because I have found so much support here from the community, including people at my workplace who put up with a lot. In terms of getting support so that I can train properly and look after my body, Crust Pizza have backed me a hundred per cent and I have had really good management from Martin Hodgeson — all these elements, including hard work, I believe will get me to the Olympics.

I hope that I can get a medal for Australia.

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About Simon Copland

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. In his spare time he plays rugby union and is a David Bowie fanatic. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer, blogs at The Moonbat and tweets at @SimonCopland.

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