SUNDERLAND’S Warren Baister has won GB selection for the Olympic qualifying event in Turkey next month.
It ended a long and nervous wait to get the nod to take part in the tournament – which he must win to qualify for the London Games this summer.
Only one qualification place is now left for a European heavyweight in the Olympics, leaving the 26-year-old – and his rivals in Trabzon next month – knowing that only victory in the final will be good enough.
It’s a tough challenge for the 6ft 4in fighter, but for the moment he is just glad to finally be given the seal of approval after winning selection to a squad which has left other British boxing contenders disappointed by their omissions.
Baister told the Echo: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have got the nod simply because until you get that confirmation from GB boxing, you can never be 100 per cent certain that you get a shot at going to the Olympics.
“I was told I would find out yesterday morning but I waited and waited and waited and the call didn’t come.
“It wasn’t until three o’clock in the afternoon that the phone finally rang, so I was a bit of a wreck by then!
“But at least it’s over with now and I’m finally free to just concentrate purely on my boxing rather than constantly worrying about impressing the right people.”
Baister, who trains every week with the GB elite squad in Sheffield, was always the man most likely to win the heavyweight nomination. But there was strong talk last year that Middlesbrough’s Simon Vallily, the Commonwealth gold medallist, might just do enough to win the nomination.
Thankfully for the Wearsider, the Teessider’s challenge petered out, leaving the way clear for Warren to continue to show he deserved his shot.
“I’m just glad that the squad for the last Turkey qualifier has been chosen and that I’m in it,” he reflected. “It does seem a bit odd that there’s got to be all these months of uncertainty.
“You get the impression that you’re in pole position for selection but you can never truly know.
“I suppose the idea is that it keeps you on your toes and you don’t take things for granted but, personally, it’s a massive relief just to get the nomination and get that part of things out of the way.
“Now there’s nothing for me to worry about now – other than winning next month’s tournament!”
Baister goes to a training camp in France next week before joining a list of 32 European heavyweights all hoping to win a passport to Olympic glory.
If he is to win, he is likely to have to overcome, on his home soil, Jaldemar Avni, the Turkish boxer who controversially outpointed him in a tournament held in Poland earlier this month.
Baister told the Echo: “I was disappointed with the scoring in that fight because I didn’t think I’d lost it. The result was a little controversial but I can’t let that play on my mind.
“He’s just one of a number of dangerous opponents that will be out there and there’s even a chance our paths won’t cross at all.
“I’ve won tournaments like these before but I also know how challenging it is, how your concentration levels have to be absolutely spot on through every round.
“But for the moment I’m just delighted that I’ve got the selection nomination and that I now know exactly what I have to do.
“The number of places available for the Olympics is different from one division to the next and some of the lads will be going knowing that losing in the final, or even reaching the semis will be enough to see them through to the games.
“At heavyweight though, only winning the tournament will be good enough. It’s a challenge but I’m very excited about it – I know exactly what I need to do.”
The tournament takes place in Trabzon in Turkey with Warren and the rest of the GB squad flying over on April 11.