COLUMBIA, Md. — It’s said bad things happen in threes, so the way aspiring Olympian Amelia Moore sees it, she can only go up from here.
The 25-year-old Norway native and 2014 Maryland Novice Golden Gloves champion feels good heading into this weekend’s women’s boxing Olympic qualifier in Baltimore, Md., despite a number of set backs this year. This is her third attempt at an Olympic qualifier and she needs to place at least third to move forward toward her Olympic dream.
“I feel as though I have done everything I possibly can to qualify,” Moore said last week. “It’s supposed to be an awful grind and no one wants to stick it out. It’s such a marathon of a sport.”
She’s faced more than her fair share of uphill battles since the beginning of 2015, after which a lot of people would have thrown in the towel.
Moore was hospitalized in January with pneumonia, which made her miss the first Olympic qualifier. Then her coach and mentor died in February. And when she returned from the Colorado qualifier at the end of June — where she placed fourth, one spot short of going on to the next level — she suffered from altitude sickness and again contracted pneumonia, this time with a 103-degree fever. This last bout of sickness led to the discovery that she’s allergic to gluten and dairy.
“It seems like it’s been this crazy struggle. A lot of it is because I don’t sleep. I am training full time and working full time and only getting four to five hours of sleep a night. The weight wasn’t coming off,” she said, noting it’s always a constant battle to maintain her fighting weight. “If you don’t make the weight, you don’t get to fight. Then all that training was for nothing.”
But, for the most part, she sees her set backs as blessings in disguise.
“It’s been such a turn-around in the last nine months. It almost had to happen to figure out what the issue was,” Moore said about her food allergies. She was always coughing, wheezing and congested. Gluten and dairy only exacerbated the inflammation in her lungs, which led to her pneumonia, she added.
The 2008 Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School graduate and varsity athlete started boxing at a gym in Lewiston before heading to the Naval Academy shortly after graduation. Down in Maryland, she met her first coach, Thomas Langley Sr., and trained with him until his passing six months ago. This was devastating but she didn’t want to let him down, so Moore and her current coach, Robert Crawford, picked up where Langley left off and have been working hard ever since.
The duo has been training six to seven days a week since she’s bounced back from her last bout of pneumonia. Moore decided to take a leave of absence from work so she could put all her focus into boxing. This includes driving to Alexandria, Va., every day last week to work with Olympic-level coaches. This helps her get extra sparring in, as finding consistent sparring partners in past has been a struggle.
Down in Virginia, Moore has gone head-to-head with two female boxers who are in the 165-pound class, including Iesha Kenney, who’s representing Taiwan for the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They’ve got 30-plus pounds on Moore, as she’s in the 132-pound class. But the experience is invaluable.
“They’ve been really welcoming and really kicking my butt, man. They’re the hardest practices of my life. It’s great, though,” Moore said. “I like to work hard. If you keep putting out the effort, they’re going to keep dishing it out to you.”
She’s also learned from her recent illnesses when she needs to stop pushing herself to the extreme limit. This includes some words of wisdom she’s gleaned from reading Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Ronda Rousey’s biography.
“I am one of those people who will train until my eyes bleed. … It’s really difficult for me to know when to stop and … to know when I am hurt or injured because I am used to always being hurt or in discomfort,” Moore said. “Your mind will continue to go. Your body will continue to follow. Then it’s like, ‘Who pumped the breaks because I am going full throttle.’”
Moore knows she has to bring her A game to Baltimore this weekend because the competition will be stiff. There are already 24 fighters in her weight class alone and they’re all vying for three spots. The top three from each weight class in each qualifier will battle in a tournament held in October to see who gets the top honors to represent the United States in the 2016 Olympics.
“I am going in there to win. I am going in there to definitely place,” Moore said. “I feel like I am in a really good spot. I was way more stressed out last time. I am excited. … The biggest thing going into that is knowing you’ve done everything possible to prepare and that will give you the confidence to be better than that person.”
She’s also heeding the advice of several people who told her to never give up because she has a talent, but also to have fun — even if it seems counter intuitive to the sport of boxing. She’s brought herself down off her pedestal a little bit, easing some of the self-imposed pressure.
“Everyone keeps telling me, ‘You just have to have fun. Go out there and kick ass but you need to stay relaxed.’ … I am not going to just go out there and punch you in the face and drop you. It would be great, it’s not going to happen. (But) I am definitely training (for that),” Moore said, laughing.