Growing up, Tokyo 2020-hopeful boxer Harry Garside was considered the wimp of the family. Now, he is challenging stereotypes and incorporating some unorthodox training methods as he fights towards his first Olympic Games. Olympic admirers from all over the world are invited to book Olympic 2020 tickets from our online platforms for Olympic Tickets. Olympic Boxing admirers can book Olympic Boxing Tickets from our ticketing marketplace exclusively on discounted prices.
The youngest of three, Garside was a quirky kid who preferred spending time with his mum rather than roughhousing with his brothers, so it was a shock to everyone when the then 9-year-old decided he wanted to take up boxing.
“I’m the youngest of three boys and both of my brothers are very, very tough macho men. I was the opposite growing up,” the Mooroolbark, Victorian said.
“They would be out the back, digging holes or working with dad in the garage, whereas I was inside dusting or cleaning the house with mum, that was my childhood. I did play a lot of sport growing up, but I was terrified of contact sport, I never wanted to be tackled in football or get hit by a cricket ball so when I wanted to try boxing, the whole family was pretty surprised.”
As soon as he stepped into the ring, it was love at first fight.
“I fell in love with boxing instantly. The structure, the brutality and the old-fashioned style of training were just very appealing to me,” he said.
My first coach made me fall in love with it as well. He made me believe I was going to be a champion. Garside’s coach, Brian Levier has remained by his side from the beginning, instilling faith in the now 22-year-old. But not everyone thought Garside was going to be a champion, in fact, he was considered easy pickings by his competitors.
“Throughout my career, I’d been seen as the easy target,” he said.
I’d never had any success at a national level so everyone really overlooked me and there were a few comments going around like ‘I hope I draw Harry Garside first, he’d be really easy so it would be a good warm-up fight.’ Hearing stuff like that really made me train harder and tighten up the screws. With those comments in the back of my mind, I won my first national championship in 2015.
Those disparaging, yet driving comments kept Garside motivated, the wins kept coming. Garside is now the six-time National Champion and last year he claimed Commonwealth Games gold in the men’s 60kg division, dedicating his win to coach Levier. Since the Commonwealth Games, Garside has Tokyo Olympic firmly in his sights, utilizing uncomfortableness as his superpower and incorporating unique training methods like ballet, karaoke, and army training into his routine.
“I’ve always been a bit of an unusual person, I’ve always been a little bit different,” Garside shared.
I’m not going to lie, I’d always wanted to try ballet. I say I do it for boxing, but really, I have always wanted to dance. I love that it’s so alike to boxing in the way that it’s quite brutal in the way of the strength and structure that’s required, which is what appeals to me. The footwork, the coordination, the transference of weight. Although they seem worlds apart, they are so alike.
“I’ve only had two fights since I started ballet, but I can already tell the difference in my leg strength and stability,” he explained.
Along with the physical training, Garside says training the mind is just as important, which is why he has challenged himself to get outside of his comfort zone every month. Over the last year, I’ve been forcing myself to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Every month I do something that pushes me out of my comfort zone, things like no technology, ballet lessons, having really tough conversations, commando training, karaoke… Karaoke was terrible!
Doing these things was a lot harder than I thought but I’ve still got a few things in mind like public reading and stand-up comedy.
“I think putting yourself in these situations translates to the sport because as athletes, we get put in so many weird and strange situations that are uncomfortable, so the more uncomfortable something makes me feel, the more I want to do it,” he said.
As for his army training, Garside says the biggest takeaway was how similar athletes and soldiers are when it comes to breaking through both mental and physical barriers. The AIS started this awesome initiative called the Gold Medal Ready (GMR) program, which helps Australian athletes familiarize themselves with the pressures of the Olympic environment, Garside explained. About six or seven sports with 50-60 athletes went to Goldsworthy Barracks and the Commando Regiment took us through a two-day course. It was unreal.
“High-level athletes and soldiers are very, very similar,” Garside said.
Obviously, we are different in that they are fighting for life and death while we are fighting to win or lose, but I think the emotion and the intensity of high-level sport are similar, so I took a lot out of it,” he continued. When he’s not competing, dancing, singing or crawling through trenches, Garside volunteers his time to Reach, a not for profit organization he utilized as a teenager. Reach teaches young people about resilience, breaking down barriers and how to connect with other people.
“I’ve been involved with Reach for five or six years now and I see so much value in it,” he said.
I think the youth of today need these skills more than ever. Obviously, suicide rates are so high and there are some big problems facing the youth of Australia. This is a space where they can just be themselves, they’re free of judgment and can really push themselves.
“As a 16-year-old, they helped me to realize my full potential by challenging what I thought was ‘normal’ negative male stereotypes, and I knew growing up I didn’t want to be like that,” Garside shared.
“I grew up in a very male-dominated family, so I felt like I had to be that way and learning that I didn’t, just felt like home to me, so I’ve been involved ever since.”
Anyone who has stepped foot into Garside’s bedroom knows that Tokyo 2020 is his biggest aspiration. I remember sitting up watching the Beijing 2008 Olympics when I was 7 or 8 and my parents would be telling me to go to bed because I had school in the morning, but I was just glued to the screen.
My room is just covered with photos of Australian athletes and having those photos, quotes, and memorabilia helps train my subconscious. I wake up every day and see a Tokyo 2020 medal, Tokyo posters and an accountability mirror that I have written on.
“Seeing it there every morning, it just drives me each day to train my absolute butt off. My attitude is to wake up every day and be better than I was yesterday and I want to get that gold medal in Tokyo, not just for me but for my country, he continued. I’m so patriotic and I love this country so dearly. I feel so lucky to live in Australia, wearing green and gold means everything to me.”
Garside has recently moved one step closer to fulfilling his Olympic dream after winning his weight division at the national pre-selection trials for the Tokyo 2020 Asia-Oceania Qualification Tournament, to be held in April next year.