EUROPEAN boxing champion Niamh Mitchell said that her “jaw dropped” when she landed a knockout national award.
The 16-year-old, a member of Bowhill Miners Boxing Club, was named as the Young Athlete of the Year at the Scottish Sports Awards 2022 after winning a EUBC (European Boxing Confederation) European Junior Championship in Italy.
Dunfermline High School pupil Niamh, who took up the sport three-and-a-half years ago having competed in kickboxing previously, became the first female boxer to win gold for Scotland at a major competition following a stunning performance in the ring.
After defeating Ireland’s Carlagh Mullarney, Hungary’s Sara Nyogeri and England’s Keira Rose Bowden in the 52kg light bantamweight category, the Bowhill Miners Boxing Club member then saw off Cyprus’ two-time European champion, Laila Abdullatif, in the final.
That victory, which was described by tournament organisers as a “sensation”, saw Niamh become only the second Scot to win gold at the European Junior Boxing Championships, and only the seventh in history, male or female, to become a European champion at any level.
Hosted by sportscotland and Commonwealth Games Scotland, the awards saw Niamh shortlisted alongside Commonwealth Games medal-winning swimmers Toni Shaw and Katie Shanahan, but she told Times Sport of her shock at landing the prize.
“I think everything’s just been a rush in the last three, four months. It’s just all been crazy,” she said.
“When my name was announced, I’m not even joking, my jaw dropped. I was speechless.
“I was taken back a bit, then I went up, and I got my award from (boxer) Sam Hickey, and it was just a blur. It was a weird feeling.
“I feel like, with my family and friends there as well, it made it so much better, and they were all just shocked as well. It was a great experience.
“I did not expect to get the award, seeing the people in my category and seeing what they’ve achieved. I was just taken back by that; I just thought, ‘Oh my God’, these people have just achieved so much. Then, when my name did get called, I just didn’t expect it.”
Niamh, who joked that she was glad she didn’t have to make a speech as she “wouldn’t have been prepared”, such was her surprise, rubbed shoulders with some of Scottish sport’s biggest stars, including Eilish McColgan.
The Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres champion won the Sporting Moment of the Year accolade, and Niamh continued: “I saw my name, especially next to Eilish McColgan, all the big names, I just thought it was crazy.
“I did not think I would ever see my name next to their names at all. That’s all the big athletes you see on the TV, and you look up to in Scotland, and then seeing my name next to theirs, being there and seeing them in real life, was just mind-blowing.
“It was so surreal. When I saw them, I was literally gobsmacked!
“I actually got to speak to Eilish McColgan, which I was so happy with. Even just being able to speak to people that maybe you haven’t heard of, but the amount of stuff they’ve achieved, is just crazy, especially when the big names just popped up on the board and it was just rattling off a whole list of stuff they’ve achieved.
“It’s just crazy that I’ve achieved the European Championships, and they’re all winning Olympic medals and Commonwealth Games medals.”
Niamh’s proud dad, Stewart, added: “It’s been some year.
“My wife and I were saying to her don’t be disheartened if you don’t win it; even being selected, put on the shortlist, is a phenomenal achievement anyway. It was unbelievable.
“Everybody was there; her coaches, her grandparents, the lot. It was a really good night. There were some amount of tears.”
“It’s been a whirlwind. That’s only been since May; that was her first time away with the Scotland squad, so it’s not even a year.
“It’s mental what she’s achieved and what she’s done.”