Road to Rio: Heavy weight champ set to smash Olympic medal drought

As a kid, Jason Whateley didn’t mind a scrap.

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So when he gave up footy for boxing, he found an instant connection.

“I won by TKO (technical knockout) in the third round and I loved it,” he told SBS News.

“Finally I was allowed to fight, and it was like ‘I don’t even get in trouble, how good’s this!'”

“It was probably more dangerous playing footy than boxing.”

The heavy weight now holds back-to-back national titles from 2015 and 2016, and fortunately is yet to be seriously injured.

“I’ve had my nose broken a couple of times, I’ve chipped a bone in my elbow from overextension,” he said.

“It was probably more dangerous playing footy than boxing.”

Now he’s set to make his Olympic debut, but winning fights is only half the battle.

While wearing the green and gold in Rio, Whateley will still need to pay the rent in Melbourne and without sponsorship it’s been a struggle to pay for the international travel involved in making Olympic selection.

Whateley started a crowd funding campaign to help fund his Rio journey.

“I have to fund my own trips,” he said.

“And I’m going to miss out on a lot of work, I still have to pay rent, have to live – and not getting any financial support, it’s tough.”

He’s not one to back down from a fight. Spending his days as a personal trainer and his nights hitting the bag.

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Whateley’s girlfriend Steph Cassidy said it was hard watching him sacrifice so much for Olympic glory.

“The sacrifices he makes, I couldn’t list them all,” she said.

“He misses out on birthdays, he misses out holidays, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t party, he doesn’t do anything.”

It is this dedication Whateley’s coach is hoping will pay dividends come August.

Gerry Murphy said while many come to the boxing gym with the skills to fight, few have the drive to reach the elite levels.

“I’ve had many many guys come in here with the goods, everything they needed but the will power,” he said.

“They always had an excuse. He never has an excuse.”

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Whateley said while it was a dream come true to make the Olympic team, the job is far from over.

With under four months until the Games begin, the 25-year-old is shifting training into high gear – aiming for a medal in Rio.

“I’m definitely going for gold,” he said.

“I want to be the first medalist since 1988 and no heavy weight has ever medalled.”

He’ll need to win five bouts, with a loss bringing instant elimination. But whether it’s an arena in Brazil or a shed in Bairnsdale, Whateley’s prepared to go down swinging.

“Never surrender, never give up always keep going, keep going forward,” he said.

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