Mikaela Mayer on the Olympics: "Just Another Tournament"
By: Connor Mannion
Mikaela Mayer has a lot going for her as one of the two female boxers representing the USA in Rio. But her drive and sense of purpose weren't always so clear to her.
"My dad always had me in sports growing up, but there was a time I'm high school where I wasn't doing any sports, or anything very productive for that matter," Mayer told NBC Olympics. "I was in my fourth high school despite being in AE and honors classes all through elementary and middle school. It was a simple lack of discipline and a bad attitude."
Muay Thai kickboxing changed that 'bad attitude.' "A few weeks after I turned 17 I made the decision to walk into a Muay Thai Kickboxing gym down the street from my dad's apartment," she said. "A couple months into training and I was hooked. I buckled down in school and poured all my focus into learning my craft. Three years later they announced women's boxing would be inducted into the Olympics, and that's where my dream started."
Now she seems set to fulfill a lifelong dream as a member of Team USA in boxing, alongside former Olympic Champion Claressa Shields, who won gold at the 2012 London Games.
Despite this, Mayer feels no pressure. "The challenges I face going into the Games aren't any different then the challenges I would face heading into any major competition. Yes, this is the Olympics and the most important tournament in my life, but I have to look at it like just another tournament. I have to block out the crowd and the media and the hype and stay focused on my performance. That is the challenge."
Though the challenge Mayer faces is different then that of male boxers, like Shakur Stevenson and Charles Conwell. "Women wear headgear while the men do not, and women go four two-minute rounds while men go three three-minute rounds," Mayer said were the two biggest differences.
"I personally enjoy the four rounds. Olympic style boxing is challenging because you don't have 12 rounds to adjust. You only have four, so you better figure out your opponent quickly. That extra round gives you more time to switch up the game plan if needed," she said.
"As for the headgear, they plan to take ours off next year ... It's a tough subject because Olympic style boxing is different from the professional ranks." Mayers said it's because, "you may need to take a punch to give two or three. Not only that, but we can fight up to six days in a row sometimes and cuts become a huge problem." Mayer continued that one could be the best in the Olympics, but a simple cut could end up disquialifying you.
Despite the challenges of blocking out the crowds and diffent rules, Mayer is prepared for the path ahead, and it is a path she shares with her
"It's a rare dream to chase and the journey is brutal. My teammates inspire me because they know what it takes to be where we are. They fight the battle with you every day. Them and my family... The ones who have been there since the beginning and the ones who saw the vision with you."
This intensity belies the fact that she does plan to relax and take a vacation in Rio following the Olympics. "I plan on staying in Brazil with my family for a few days after competition ends to really enjoy the beautiful country. We often travel strictly for competition and usually miss out on all the sight seeing, but I plan to enjoy it a little this time once business is taken care of."