Skye Nicolson never met her brothers.
Jamie and Gavin were killed in a car crash in 1994 – a year before she was born and many, many years too soon.
Jamie was a household name in Australian boxing circles. He won bronze at the 1990 Commonwealth Games and represented his country at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Twenty-nine years later, the sister he never had the chance to hold was following in his footsteps.
One of those boxers who fight for love not money, Nicolson breezed through her opening bout in Tokyo, scoring an easy unanimous points decision win. After the perfect start to her Olympic campaign, the parallels with Jamie were even more prominent.
“It’s unreal,” she said of becoming the second sibling in her family to fight under the Australian flag at an Olympics. “It’s a pretty crazy story and I’m just glad I can be here making my family proud and making Jamie proud too.”
“100 per cent,” Nicolson added when asked if she felt like her family was with her, despite the empty stands brought upon by Covid-19. “I know everyone was watching at home so I can’t wait to go talk to them all.”
Nicolson wasn’t content just booking a plane ticket to Japan though. She was here to win, not for the bragging rights that come with saying you reside in the Athletes’ Village.
It’s why she was brought to tears in the most heart-wrenching interview after losing her second fight, a desperately close split decision defeat to Great Britain’s Karriss Artingstall.
Nicolson broke down, devastated she couldn’t do her talent and her journey justice.
“It’s pretty hard to put into words right now,’’ Nicolson said. “I came here with one goal and that was a gold medal and I truly believed that I was going to win it. So to go out now is really, really hard for me.”
She said becoming the first Australian female boxer to reach the quarter-finals of an Olympics “means nothing to me” because “I care about what I am capable of and not achieving that is really heartbreaking”.
Nicolson started boxing as a 12-year-old and as the years rolled on, people would tell her how much she reminded them of Jamie, a former world No. 1 featherweight who was just 22 when he died.
At first she thought it was just what you say to someone in her situation. But later she understood what they were talking about.
“It wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 and started watching video footage of Jamie’s fights I was like, ‘Wow, holy s**t, we actually do really box exactly the same,” she told the Remember the Name podcast earlier this year.
“It’s a really unique style and I wasn’t necessarily taught to box like him, it just kind of naturally happened that way.
“Going and watching footage of me and then footage of him, it’s kind of scary how we never met each other or trained together … and it naturally came to us both, this awkward, untouchable southpaw style.”
A bronze medal at the 2016 world championships was followed by gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where Nicolson said she “won that medal for both of us”.
“I feel like he’s living through me,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018. “I feel like I almost knew him in a way because I have this clear, clear image of a brother I never knew.”
Jamie was seriously talented with a bright future that was cruelly taken away too soon. In 1989 he became the first Aussie to ever win a world championship medal in Moscow at just 17, before he went on to claim bronze at the Commonwealth Games the following year.
A trip to the Barcelona Games two years later was the highlight of his resume, which also included a stack of state and national titles.
Jamie turned pro in 1993 and won six of his first seven fights but tragically, never had the opportunity to step foot in the ring again.
The heartbreak of her loss on Wednesday will hurt for a while, but Nicolson vowed to come back better for the experience.
She feels her brother is always with her but she wants to be recognised for her own achievements, not as Jamie’s brother. She’s already there – otherwise she wouldn’t be competing at an Olympics – and come 2024 she’ll have even more supporters wishing her towards the gold medal she craves.
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