FRIDAY night in the athletes’ village, and competitors arriving back from their events were greeted by a strange sight. It was time to be tucked up in bed, yet here was one individual skipping manically as if his life depended on it.
It was boxer Charlie Flynn, and, if his life did not quite depend on what he was doing, the gold medal he was after certainly did. The 20-year-old from Motherwell needed to make the weight for his lightweight final by nine o’clock that morning, and with time running out he was still about five pounds too heavy.
So it was out with the skipping rope, on with the sweat gear, and out down Scotland Street to work that weight off. “It’s been brutal,” Flynn said yesterday, his face still bearing the bruising from his last triumphant battle for gold. “I’ve been really tight on the weight – I was going to move up a year and a bit ago, but the doctor told me I’d still be able to make the weight for the Games. It’s going to be really hard, he told me, but I’d be able to make it.
“The night before the final, I’d just fought in the semis. As I wasn’t fighting [the final] at night I had to eat and drink to keep me going. I weighed myself after [the food] and I was two and a bit kilos over. I had to lose it for the next morning, for 7am. I was up with all these people walking about the village and I was out there skipping.
“It was 12 o’clock at night, people thinking ‘Who the hell is that nutter?’ It was just outside the Scottish bit. Everyone was walking about, these African athletes, thinking ‘who’s that nugget skipping in the corner?’
“I skipped for about an hour with all the sweat gear on. It was cold, so I didn’t really lose any weight. I was still a kilo over so I got up the next morning and went to the sauna. I felt better after it. I was fully hydrated and I’d been eating the day before, so it didn’t really affect me.”
He felt better still after beating Joe Fitzpatrick of Northern Ireland in the final – and then better again when he got back to the village and at least could eat some of the food he had denied himself for so long. “They had all these cakes and muffins,” he said. “It was all for free and you couldn’t touch anything! There I was walking about with bits of lettuce. It was brutal.
“You had all these athletes walking about with trays of food after being in an event which lasts a couple of days. Mine lasts the whole time. Me and Josh [Taylor, his team-mate] hammered it last night. I had pizza and cakes and chocolate. Everything gone.
“Why couldn’t I be good at darts or something? Necking pints and all that.” Now that he has triumphed at amateur level, the next question for Flynn is whether to maintain his present status up to the next Olympics at least, or take his chances in the professional game. “Everybody says ‘You’re still young’, but there’s always the temptation to turn pro.
“I need to start making money. I can’t just scrape by. I didn’t have any sponsors coming into this, so I’ve been getting by and no more.
“It’s got to the point that I’ll have to make money whether that’s on a funding scheme or turning pro. I’ll sit back for a couple of weeks and look at my options.
“It’s a perfect platform to go pro. But other people think I’d be better off waiting to Rio and even another Commonwealth Games.”
After a short break, Flynn will be back to the job where he is already a pro – working for the Royal Mail. “They’ve been great – they’ve been paying me while I’ve been off.
“But you’ve got the costs of travelling into the gym two or three times a day. Then there’s food. I’ve been buying all my diet stuff and food in bulk at the cash and carry. It all adds up.”
On the evidence of his post-fight interviews, in which he threw out lines such as ‘The crowd looked like ants, but they roared like lions’, Flynn is a little man with a big personality who could easily become a popular figure in the pro ranks.
But, for all that he has come across as a showman, he is a bit uneasy with his time in the limelight and is hoping – probably against hope – that he will soon be allowed to return to his past life.
“They’re brutal, man,” he said of those interviews. “I don’t know where I get these things from. I think I’ve been reading the weans too many stories at night with some of the stuff I’ve been coming out with.
“It’s going to be mad when I go home and I’m sure it’ll be mental at the Royal Mail as well.
“I’ve got a couple of weeks before I’m due back at work. I’m going to stay with family and friends over the next wee while and chill out.
“It doesn’t feel real. Everybody’s been coming up looking for pictures and wanting me to sign things. It’s hard to get used to.
“I’m just a quiet guy who keeps his head down. Now I’ve got people wanting me to sign phone covers and things.”