A teenage boxer from Samoa was one of those to have made their debut at the ongoing Women's Boxing World Championships in New Delhi. What makes the journey of Celine Lee-Lo, who represents New Zealand in the 81kg+ heavyweight division, extra special is that she has crowdfunded her way to the event.
"The Boxing Federation of New Zealand made it clear to us in a letter that it is an athlete-funded trip. It was my aunty who created the crowdfunding campaign to raise the required amount," the 19-year-old, who lost in the quarterfinals on Wednesday evening, told The Bridge.
"We had to come up with everything. My family and friends helped me raise the money. I want to thank all the people who donated on social media to help me reach here," she added.
The Bridge accessed the document sent by Boxing New Zealand to Celine, which mentioned that the selected athletes would need to deposit $4500 for travel and accommodation in New Delhi.
A proud Samoan boxer
In the world of sports, Samoa is synonymous with athletes who have dominated combat and contact sports like wrestling, boxing, and rugby.
Inspired by the legendary David Tua, who is also known as the 'Samoan Mike Tyson', Celine took to boxing as naturally as a duck to water. Coming from a family of seven where she is the eldest of five children, Celine picked up boxing during her vacations.
"I would usually spar with my male cousins during my childhood. We would just put on gloves and punch each other, but it was just for fun. When I was 15, I started going to classes in a boxing gym. After that, I shifted to the Pacific boxing academy," Celine said.
"I am a proud Samoan and I am the first boxer in my family. My other cousins and siblings play different sports," she added.
Multi-tasking on boxing, studies
When not training in the boxing ring, Celine is buried in her books or completing university assignments.
A university student doing a double bachelor's degree in criminology and sociology, Celine's training for her maiden Worlds appearance involved multi-tasking between her several roles.
"My training routine for the Worlds was rigorous. I would spend hours in the gym with my coach and spar for hours. I spend a lot of time in the gym as the heavyweight category demands an agile body. With my dad, I do all the fitness training such as running on the track and cycling. With my coach, I do everything from strength and conditioning to sparring and all other technical training," Celine said.
"Amateur boxing is growing in New Zealand and I hope my journey inspires the girls around me. I hope more female boxers will emerge in my country now," she added.
With her campaign ending in the quarter-finals at the World Championships, Celine wants to go back and focus on the upcoming nationals. "I will go back home and focus on the upcoming national tournament as this is an important year for us with Olympics qualification in sight," she said.
A 19-year-old managing university, family, and a combat sport like boxing is certain to inspire a lot of girls back home.