Ballet-dancing plumber Harry Garside boxing for rare Australian medal | Boxing
huharry Garside fights stereotypes in Tokyo. The 24-year-old plumber from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs will fight in the men’s lightweight semi-final on Friday afternoon. But whatever the outcome against two-time world champion Andy Cruz, Garside has already made history and impressed.
He will soon become the first Australian to win an Olympic boxing medal in more than three decades (with bronze assured if he loses to Cuba’s Cruz). Garside has also dealt a blow to outdated gender stereotypes in traditionally hyper-masculine sport.
After winning his quarterfinal in a split decision over Kazakh boxer Zakir Safiullin, Garside removed his gloves to reveal painted nails – a white base with a colored band across each, to create a rainbow. “I got these today,” he told reporters. “I just want to break stereotypes, to be honest. I am big for that.”
Garside has made a habit of doing things differently. He incorporated ballet into his boxing workout and his dancing feet are fully featured in the ring. “I’m not going to lie, I’ve always wanted to try ballet,” he said recently. “I say I do it for boxing, but actually I’ve always wanted to dance. Ballet is very heavy, the power through the legs they generate, the coordination, everything is just so extreme.”
With ballet and painted nails, Garside wants to be his own man and not worry about societal expectations. “There are a lot of people who feel like they have to be something because they’re a man or a woman,” he said. “It’s about me being different.” Garside volunteers as a mentor with the Reach Foundation to empower others.
But he also admitted that he stopped expressing himself during the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony last month. “I was going to wear a dress to the opening ceremony, but I didn’t want to offend anyone,” he said. “Some people might take it the wrong way, so this is my way of showing something.”
Since the sport was introduced at the 1904 Olympics, Australia has never won a gold medal in boxing. Grahame Cheney came close at the 1988 Games in Seoul, losing in the final to Soviet boxer Vyacheslav Yanovskiy. Previously, the country’s best was bronze – one in 1956, two in 1960.
The Australian boxer already has a gold medal in his closet, winning at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. After that win, he told reporters: “I’m just an ordinary guy. I’m back as a plumber, back on the spade and back with the boys.” He is also a six-time Australian National Champion.
Garside has already guaranteed a return to the podium for Australia after 33 years of waiting; in Olympic boxing, both losing semifinalists receive bronze instead of fighting for it. But Garside wants to fight his way to a gold medal. With a view to the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane and the potential that medal success in the sport in Tokyo could fuel a new generation, Garside knows he will be boxing for more than just himself on Friday.
“It would be huge, mate,” he said. “Obviously we just got the Games in 2032 and I really want to do it for the next generation of fighters. You get a medal and more money comes their way and if you go to a home game Australia can win a few medals as long as I win these.”
Garside can embrace differences and delight in kicking back stereotypes. But like any Olympian in Tokyo, he is fueled by the prospect of being on the podium. “I want the gold, I don’t want bronze or silver, I want that gold,” he said.
If Garside can beat Cruz, he will face American Keyshawn Davis or Armenian Hovhannes Bachkov. It would take two extraordinary performances for Garside to defeat the Cuban former champion on Friday and go on to win the gold medal. But his journey thus far has made it clear that Garside lives for the unexpected.
like him posted on Instagram prior to the Olympics: “The universe gave me so many opportunities to give in to my dreams, you’ll never stop me.”