At 57Kg Gunner Karriss Artingstall cuts a diminutive figure as a featherweight Olympic contender, but it has been nothing short of a super heavyweight long-term strategy by Army Boxing that got her into the ring at Tokyo 2021.
Not since the Mexico games of 1968 has the Army produced a boxer to represent Great Britain at an Olympics; back then it was flyweight Johnny McGonigle, and he too, like Karriss emerged as an elite boxer from the ranks of the Royal Artillery.
52 years were way too long, so the Army Boxing Team convened to formulate a long-term plan that would place a soldier boxer into Team GB. So, it was back in 2015 that the team set up the Elite Performance Pathway supported by the Army Sports Control Board’s Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme.
With this came additional funding that allowed the team to appoint performance management specialists based in Aldershot, these included; strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, a life-style coach and sports psychologist all there to support and nurture the evolving talent. It wouldn’t be long before this developing pool backed by a dedicated team of sports professionals became recognised; in 2018 Ben Stewart arrived as Programme and Performance Manager, seconded from GB Boxing cementing a formal relationship between the two bodies.
Throughout this period, Army Boxing saw an exponential rise in women taking up the sport. Since the 2010/2011 season, female Army boxers were supported and trained full-time alongside their male counterparts – before that, they simply held a two-week training camp for the women ahead of the then Amateur Boxing Association Championships.
There was now a lot of female talent breaking through and clearly, they were going to need the same investment the boys were enjoying. That investment soon paid off with Corporal Alanna Nihell (then Murphy) winning a bronze medal in at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; she would later go on to make headlines as the first Mr and Mrs team when she worked as a second to her husband, then Lance Corporal, Chez Nihell, boxing as a pro for the first time at the O2.
Today, the girls outnumber the boys 9 to 8 on the Army’s team and two of them train full-time at the centre for GB Boxing in Sheffield. Karriss is one and Tori Ellis Willets. A third, Megan Reid is currently training with Boxing Scotland, hopeful of a chance to compete in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
It has taken Gunner Karriss hundreds of hours of training, a passion and dedicated resilience that only an Olympian knows to get herself this far. It was the forethought and strategic planning of a group within Army Boxing that provided Gunner Karriss the means by which to come out fighting.