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The TV cameras were mounted high in each corner of the mixed zone with tents at the back of the Riocentro Pavilion, which hosted the 2016 Olympic boxing competitions. For all the places synonymous with the best days of Irish sport, Riocentro is easily identifiable with a handful of the worst.

Maybe the writing was on the wall to begin with. Located in the utterly soulless Barra suburb of Rio, miles from anything and everything, South American football expert Tim Vickery summed it up best when he offered his advice before this Brazilian adventure six years ago.

“Riocentro is an absolute bastard,” came his gruff reply, “it’s kind of a cruel joke that his name even has the word Centro in it…”

Here, on the eve of the games, the news of Michael O’Reilly’s failed drug test broke for the first time. Here, an ashen Katie Taylor sobbed softly into her towel, trying to find the words to describe a heartbreak that ran so much deeper than the disappointment in the ring. And here, face contorted with anger, Michael Conlan ripped off his amateur vest for the last time as he threw the bird at the ringside judges, whose treachery cost him a second Olympic medal.

However, there is another afternoon that comes to mind every time Riocentro or resilience is mentioned.

Shakur Stevenson, the American teenager Conlan should have faced in the semifinals, eventually lost to classy Cuban Robeisy Ramirez at bantamweight.

Ramirez was the reigning champion, having topped the podium in London four years earlier, beating Conlan in the process. There was no shame in losing to him – but Stevenson cried and cried and cried.

Like the west Belfast man, his feelings were laid bare on national television as he struggled to get a word out between his tears. The screens in the mixed-zone tent captured everything from a distance of several meters. Prior to that day, the Newark stylist had never lost a competitive match as an amateur boxer. He did not disagree with the decision and admitted that his opponent was a deserved winner.

But losing was a whole new experience, and it was telling.

The charismatic Ramirez was smiling and joking with journalists on the other side of the fence as Stevenson finally entered the mixed zone. With former Ireland coach Billy Walsh on his heels, there would be no stopping, no more interviews. Instead, the uncontrollable howling continued, his face contorted in pain, until he was on the other side of the tent. It was a sound and a sight to remember.

Shakur Stevenson is now a two-weight world champion and at the age of 25 is undoubtedly one of the pound-for-pound best in world boxing. When he posts on social media, fans of the faceless fight often respond with a screenshot of him crying in Rio or a YouTube link to that harrowing interview.

However, Hurt got him to where he is today. A desire to never feel that way again – coupled with the precision of a surgeon – has propelled him to the top of the tree, and he’s well on his way to becoming an absolute great.

Conlan has a similar story. As an 18-year-old, he went to the 2010 Commonwealth Games with the world on his hands, confident he could win gold. Second best has never been an option for a man born to box.

But Conlan lost his first fight on a countback against Australian Jason Moloney. Friends and teammates Paddy Barnes, Paddy Gallagher, Eamonn O’Kane, Tommy McCarthy and Steven Ward all brought home medals from Delhi and wore big smiles as photographers waited to snap the returning heroes.

Conlan escaped the commotion at Belfast City Airport and hastily escaped into the waiting arms of Father John and Mother Teresa. He spent the entire drive home in tears.

Within five years Michael Conlan was a Commonwealth and European champion, an Olympic bronze medalist aiming for improvement and eventually becoming the first Irish man to win gold at the World Championships. Tomorrow night at the SSE Arena he is looking to get his pro career back on track after the KO loss to Leigh Wood in March against Miguel Marriaga.

John Conlan – now director of Ulster High Performance – sees quite a bit of his own son in Dylan Eagleson, the Bangor teenager who is fighting for gold at the Commonwealth Games this weekend after opening his account in Birmingham yesterday.

Eagleson has been one of Irish boxing’s worst kept secrets for some time, his rise into the public consciousness temporarily halted by the Covid-19 pandemic until he became a European silver medalist in his first-ever elite-level competition in Armenia.

Conlan was not part of the coaching staff in Yerevan, but followed the competition from afar. In the final, Eagleson was clearly beaten by the skilled Frenchman Billal Bennama, scoring in standing. Accustomed only to win, like Stevenson, defeat stung.

Checking how the 19-year-old was doing in the days that followed, Conlan got the answer he wanted.

“The Italian and the French were in the other half of the draw from Dylan, one of the coaches called me and said, ‘He destroyed the Italian [at a training camp] In Assisi I hope the Italian wins but I wanted the French to win because it’s a tougher fight.

“Don’t go up against someone you know you can beat, you need that higher challenge. When I called afterwards to ask how he was he cried his eyes out, very upset and I thought brilliant. Because now he has to know where to go.

“I believe everything happens for a reason, and losing is a big part of learning. That’s what I liked about Dylan’s reaction to the Europeans.

“He was completely devastated for two or three days, eating crappy food, feeling down and I texted him to say it’s part of the journey – you can lie in bed and cry or say about it : ‘What am I going to do? to enhance?'”

Resilience takes many forms, and how athletes respond to disappointment ultimately makes or breaks it.

Look at gymnast Rhys McClenaghan earlier this week – midway through his routine, a minor slip threw him off balance, forcing the Newtownards man to react in a split second.

A year earlier, McClenaghan’s Olympic dreams came to a disastrous end when he slipped off the pommel. He salvaged Commonwealth silver in Birmingham on Monday when it could all have been so easily lost.

Experience, resilience when the pressure was greatest got McClenaghan through and the rest of his career will be all the better for knowing he’s got that in his closet – because to reach the top there’s no choice but to to come back on the horse.

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