Troy Garton, New Zealand’s boxing Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is known for reaching her podium milestone with a torn ACL – four years after taking up the sport.
What is not well known is how Garton, a part time boxing coach and personal trainer by day, wants to make an impact beyond boxing through achieving her next goal – a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I want to qualify for the Olympics because I love challenges and hopefully it will open doors to further opportunities to do good. That’s long term but for now, I’m taking it one step at a time. It’s also hard saying it out loud to people because it’s a massive goal,” says Garton.
Something as ambitious as being an Olympic gold medallist can seem far-fetched for some.
Garton says when people hear her goal, they comment on how difficult it would be. But her mentality is the more she shares it, the more accountable she feels to work harder towards achieving it.
Working hard and smart is one thing the AUT Bachelor of Design graduate knows how to do.
2018 was a big year; winning Commonwealth Games bronze, being crowned back-to-back New Zealand national champion and representing NZ at the AIBA’s women’s world boxing championships in India to close out the year.
2019 has been just as active with three overseas tournaments and camps in Italy and Thailand, and a number of wins under her belt.
Testing herself against international opponents will put Garton in good stead for her path to the 2020 Olympic qualifiers in February.
A common question she receives is how do you go from not boxing at all to a Commonwealth Games medallist and Olympic team hopeful?
“Sadly, a friend from the gym passed away unexpectedly four years ago so I put my hand up to fight in a corporate event to raise money for his family.
“It was a small way to help them at the time and to remember him. I kept up the training and eventually fighting after the event as I really enjoyed it and everything started from there,” shares Garton.
Her love for a challenge and perseverance meant she kept on going even after x-ray results showed she had torn her ACL days out from fighting for NZ at the Commonwealth Games.
“I actually ruptured my ACL in my last sparring session in New Zealand, but I didn’t know that’s what I had done.
“I felt a sharp ping in that session but managed to carry on about my day; I packed my bags, went to a family BBQ and flew out to Australia that evening. The following morning, I went for a run before going to see a physio for a check-up,” shares Garton.
She started to worry when the physio brought in the doctor and they asked her to do some exercises. When the scan results returned, they confirmed something she didn’t want to hear.
“The MRI showed my ACL had completely torn, there was no damage around it, so it was essentially a clean tear. They advised me not to fight but I told them I was so they decided to support me the best way they could,” explains Garton.
Garton says it’s amazing what the mind can do to convince the body to function in certain situations. In the lead up to the draw she prepared as much as possible both physically and mentally for the competition.
The rest is history.
“I was in tears when I won the bronze medal because the journey up to that point was a rollercoaster in itself and I was overwhelmed with emotion,” smiles Garton.
Forever the optimist, she added it was probably a good thing she tore her ACL before leaving for the Games as it meant she was able to go under the knife as soon as she returned to Auckland.
“I rehabbed like I had never rehabbed before; in the whole six months of recovery, I missed three days of rehab. The exercises were continuous and boring, but I knew the faster I got better the faster I could come back and my physio was great about it.
“In my mind if I damaged it further during rehab then I would tackle that bridge when it came but I had to keep going because I was not giving up or slowing down,” shares Garton.
Garton’s mental game is on point and something she says comes with life experience.
“Preparing for a fight mentally is much harder I would say but with each round I understand more. I used to just get in the ring and fight without even thinking or playing the game. Most opponents would have been boxing since they were 8 or 9 years old in comparison to my four years.
But now I’m thinking a lot more strategically like a game of chess. It’s taken me a while, but the journey has been great so far,” says Garton.
It’s her mental toughness and refined raw talent that will see Garton go far in anything she puts her mind to. For the rest of the year it will be put to good use as she works towards gaining a NZ spot, to help her go for gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Photo credit: Radio Sport