Kickboxing star looks to kick on after switch

by James Hendicott

TERENURE martial artist Caradh O’Donovan is expanding her horizons, with the champion kickboxer spreading her wings into a dual-sport attack on competitive karate in recent months.
O’Donovan is currently ranked number two in the world in her -55kg weight category in primary sport kickboxing, having missed a number of key tournaments over the course of the last six months. She hopes the two further competitions she’s likely to compete in over the coming couple of months might propel her ahead of Britain’s Shannon Ryan to top the rankings.
That second place ranking is all the more astonishing, though, when you take into account her new found competitiveness in the world of karate.
Explaining the crossover between the sports, O’Donovan told GazetteSport “not every style of kickboxing is similar to karate, but some are. I complete mainly in point fighting, which is a version of the sport where the main aim is to get the first hit in – be the first to score. In some ways karate is quite similar to that, although the different length of fights is something I have to get used to.
“I’ve been lucky, I’ve been doing my karate in Santry, which is where the national coaches are based, and it’s a great place to get good quickly. I started doing it really for fun, and I have a long way to go, but it’s a great place to be.
“I’ll never compete in an Olympics in kickboxing, because while it looks likely to be added to the Olympics in the future, it’ll be too late for me. In karate, it’s a long way off but if things are going well I have to think about competing in Tokyo.”
Most recently, as a result of her new passion, O’Donovan’s technical training has leant far more towards her karate ambitions.
“My strength and conditioning hasn’t really changed,” she tells us. “The technical side of the karate is a bit of a priority as I have far more to learn there. I feel like with the kickboxing, as long as I get some sparring in ahead of competitions I’ll be okay, but I do tailor my training to what’s coming up in terms of competitions at the time.
“I think the sport of kickboxing is hugely under-appreciated in Ireland,” O’Donovan continues. “Ireland is in the top three in the world as a team at most competitions, usually behind Russia and Hungary, but we get very little recognition for that. Currently, to compete for Ireland you have to pay to take part, but there are huge numbers of people involved.”
O’Donovan, in fact, is well placed to comment in the funding issues around sport in Ireland, having previously worked within the government sports departments connected with the funding of both triathlon and boxing. Having departed to mentor young Irish sportspeople as a profession – she found it challenging to train and work civil service hours – she’s less than positive about the funding aspect of sports.
“We’re one of the most successful Irish teams in any sport, and it’s well-known that there’s a difficulty there with funding,” she explains of the kickboxing in particular. “There’s some income for the association, but they can’t afford to support athletes. Last year we hosted the junior worlds, and the year before that the world senior championships were here in Ireland.
“I know from my experience that there’s a lot of money wasted, though. It really frustrates me. It’s not even that these organisations don’t have enough funding. They don’t need more money, they just need to be managed better.”
It’s fair to say as a fighter in her early 30s who already travels the world to compete, O’Donovan is not really talking about herself, but more about the sports broadly: she will struggle by and compete regardless of money coming in, not even limiting herself to just a single sport in doing so.
O’Donovan’s kickboxing, funding issues or not, is undeniably world class, with that world number one spot a realistic possibility in the -55kg weight category for later this year. The karate is new, but a real ‘watch this space’.
O’Donovan will be competing in both sports during October – at the kickboxing British Open and the Karate 1 series A in Austria. She will then head for the karate Belgian Open in November.

Related Articles