Sport Olympics Olympic boxing medallist Harry Garside’s new fight? It’s Harry versus himself in hotel quarantine
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Olympic boxing medallist Harry Garside’s new fight? It’s Harry versus himself in hotel quarantine

Harry Garside of Team Australia celebrates victory
Boxer Harry Garside made Australian Olympic history. He’s now fighting an invisible enemy. Photo: Getty
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Sounds great, eh? You’ve just become the first Australian boxer in 33 years to win an Olympic medal after claiming bronze in Tokyo.

Take a bow Harry Garside. You’re now a sporting legend. Yes, Harry, I mean you. Come on young man, you deserve it.

Not so fast. Harry shakes that boxer’s head of his. He might be a winner in Australia’s eyes but he’s a failure in his own.

Of course, he knows his mum and dad are proud. He understands Australia is over the moon that their plucky little fighter has come home with bronze. But that doesn’t help much when Harry finds it hard to be alone with himself in a tiny, spare room in Brisbane hotel quarantine.

Today’s bout is Harry versus himself. Every minute, every hour, every long night alone amplifies what Harry feels. He came to win gold and failed.

“I’m just trying my best not to be so critical of myself,” he tells TND.

He keeps reminding himself that he showed up and did his best. He hopes he’ll feel different soon. And that he’ll see what everyone around him is loving. He hopes then he’ll finally feel proud.

You see Harry had a dream for the Tokyo Olympics. He wanted gold. It wasn’t one of those idle, silly boasts. Harry had the experience, the talent and the boxing pedigree to go far. He’d done it before. He won gold in 2018 at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Harry sees that as his greatest achievement as a boxer so far – better than Olympic bronze and Australian history. That’s harsh and Harry knows his views will mellow once he gets back to family and friends but for now … well, he’s still alone in that tiny hotel quarantine room, talking to journalists who say congratulations when that’s not how he feels.

Of course, talking to mum and dad always helps. He is proud because they are proud.

“You know how good it is when my mum calls me or my dad calls me and they’re like ‘I was just down at Safeway, I was just down at Woolworths or Bunnings and someone asked me how you were going?’

“You know how proud that makes me? Because I know how proud that would make my mum and dad,” Harry says.

And it’s not just that people are proud of him. They are taking notice of his family. Growing up in Lilydale in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, Harry says he felt people unfairly judged his family.

He says his dad, Shaun, a roof tiler, “always looked a bit rough around the edges” and that may have given people an excuse to overlook them as “just the Garsides”.

But they aren’t, and weren’t ever, “just the Garsides” – and now people can see that, he says.

“Each family has their issues and my family’s had a couple over the last few years, and for my parents to just have a bit of light shone on our family, it makes me very proud.”

When you think of boxers, you probably don’t have someone like Harry Garside in mind. That’s a pity because he’s the sort of guy we hope all athletes will be. When you hear Harry talk, you’ll realise what a special young man this guy who likes punching people really is.

Harry with mum Kate and dad Shaun. Photo: Supplied

Three stories tell you much about this young man. One is about swimmer Cate Campbell and basketballer Patty Mills and the second is about what will always be more important than winning gold in Harry’s eyes. The last is what happened when the doors on a Tokyo elevator closed.

Let’s start with the lift. I don’t know what you feel when you get into a lift but Harry felt this “overwhelming feeling” of just being “so grateful to be human.”

It happened like this. Just as the Tokyo elevator’s doors were about to close, Garside held them open for a man wanting to get in. The pair were silent. Garside was the first to get out.

As he was leaving, the other man said: “You have a lovely day”.

It reminded Harry of something really important, “the art of being a good person”.

That brings us to the second story. The one thing Harry wants more than a gold medal.

“I am definitely learning to separate and just try my hardest to be a good person and a good human and then a good athlete second,” he explains.

Now about Cate and Patty. The three were at the opening ceremony when Harry approached Mills and Campbell for a photo.

Campbell was sitting down. She “obviously wanted to save her legs”, Harry explains.

“I was like ‘Hey guys, do you mind if I get a photo?’ Patty went straight up to Cate and was like ‘you stay there, you stay there’.

“I was obviously a little bit frightened because they were two superstars.

“Cate got up and we got a photo, and then Patty said to me ‘you made her get up’.

“It just shows he’s a good man … and I respected that and I’ll remember that forever now,” Harry says.

(L-R) Boxer Alex Winwood, swimmer Cate Campbell, Harry Garside, basketballer Patty Mills and boxer Paulo Aokuso.

They are three little stories. But they tell you a lot about Harry as he tosses and turns and frets and fights with that inner critic of his in hotel quarantine.

As that guy in the lift, Patty Mills and his mum and dad always remind him: winning a gold medal is big, being a good person is epic.

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