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Stacey Aims For European Championship Return
Wednesday 13th July 2016 @ 12:27 by Mark Phillip

For an athlete who has spent the last six months debilitated through injury, England boxer Stacey Copeland couldn’t be any more buoyant.

The European silver medallist has endured her darkest days in boxing after missing out on competing at the World and National Championships due to recovering from knee surgery.

What’s more disappointing for Stacey – daughter of former professional fighter Eddie – is the fact that she enjoyed one of her busiest and most fruitful years in the sport after competing in 14 bouts during 2015.

The knee injury, suffered in January, has prevented the 33-year-old from defending her title – an issue she’s openly gutted about.

Speaking to Reporter Sport, Stacey reflected on a nightmare six months. She said: “I had a successful 2015 because I only lost one fight out of 14.

“It was a really successful year, so I had some time off at Christmas, with the intention of returning to training in preparation for the World Championships in May.

“However, I picked up the injury just a few weeks later which has proved to be a massive setback.”

With a desire to return to the ring as soon as possible, Stacey underwent surgery – her sixth in total – to have cartilage removed. She added: “It was a fairly routine procedure where I had my cartilage removed because it speeds up recovery.

“I then had some scans, followed by discussions about what treatment I should have.

“Unfortunately when I came out of surgery, I had a really serious chemical burn that had been caused during the operation, so that’s an issue that’s taken a great deal of time to heal.”

Questioned on what caused the burn, Stacey said: “It’s being investigated at the moment and they’ve not been too forthcoming with information, so I can’t say too much about it other than it’s been a horrible experience.”

A horrible experience indeed, but one which she’s coped with impressively.

As a self-proclaimed positive person, Stacey has turned a negative experience into a fulfilling one.

Unable to train properly, Stacey has taken up motivational speaking, while at the same time maintaining her job at Parswood School. “The time that I’ve not been training -which usually takes up a massive part of my life – I’ve spent doing other positive things to promote the sport” she said.

“Since winning the European medal, I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking to schools, homeless people and domestic abuse victims.

“It’s a way to use the sport not just for people who want to compete, but also for those who can gain from it in day-to-day life.”

Stacey takes great pride in seeing pupils from Primary and Secondary Schools prosper – both mentally and physically – from taking part in sport.

Fully aware of the importance of planting a seed of interest from a young age, Stacey makes it her mission to make boxing as accessible – and interesting – as possible. She said: “The school pupils are full of excitement and enthusiasm, and they’re always excited when an outside adult comes in.

“I think it’s important for young boys and girls to see a female athlete from a sport such as boxing because it starts to breakdown existing stereotypes.

“At the school where I work, we have a boxing project that I’ve been running for the past four years.

“It’s hugely successful and the kids have got a great deal out of it.

“We tend to aim it more at children who are lacking in self-esteem, and the difference in some of them following the project is amazing.

“In the first week they won’t even give you eye contact, but by the end of it they have to coach others.

“This year our secondary pupils coached a group of special learning need students from a primary school.

“They were confident, taking them on a warm up using pads, and it was just great to see the development of those leadership and social skills.”

While it’s of great importance to get youngsters interested in sport from a young age, it’s equally as important to maintain that interest when passion begins to wane. Stacey explained: “I think sticking with any sport can be difficult, and we tend to find that the dropout rates with girls in year nine is quite significant.

“A lot of that is centred on appearance, in the respect that they don’t want to get sweaty or look unfeminine.

“We need to do a lot of work as a society around teaching girls that it’s not just about that.

“I think any sport is a great way to boost self-esteem, and it certainly taught me from a young age about conflict resolution, leadership skills and resilience.”

In terms of younger children, Stacey feels that the curriculum should be diversified in schools. “I feel we should have a broader curriculum because we tend to genderize PE, so the girls will do netball and hockey, while the boys do rugby and cricket.

“I know that you might only have a couple of girls that want to do rugby at first, but I think if it was part of the normal curriculum then it would become the norm.

“Children should have the opportunity to try any sport they want, but unfortunately it’s becoming too expensive.”

Despite being restricted in what she can do at the moment, Stacey harbours grand plans to compete at the European Championships in November.

With four months to go, it’s a tall order, but one she’s more than up for accomplishing. “My big hope is to be back at the European Championships in November.

“It will be difficult to get back to elite level in that time, because when you’re recovering from injury, you have to get the muscle back in the affected limb.

“You then have to get your sharpness and timing back as well.

“It’s achievable, and I won’t lose anything by trying get there, so all I can do is throw myself into it 100 per cent.”

While her main priority is to regain fitness for the Europeans, Stacey also has another challenge she wishes to conquer: The Salford 10k.

Taking part on behalf of Reuben’s Retreat – a charity she’s an ambassador for – Stacey insists she’ll finish the race – even if she has to walk it. “I’m an ambassador for the charity so it’s very close to my heart” she said.

“A group of us did the Manchester 10k the other year, so we’re trying the Salford one this time.

“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to run it myself, but if not, I’ll definitely walk it.”