MASSENA - Three years ago Michelle Cook was a teenage girl who hadnt boxed a day in her life, but now she finds herself on the cusp of stardom, just days away from a trip to Spokane, Washington, where she will compete in the USA Boxing National Championship Tournament.
Ms. Cooks trainer and fiance, Atsiaktonkie, who also goes by the name Doogie, said theyll be leaving for the tournament today, bringing along with them their 16-month-old daughter, Konwanihara and Ms. Cooks sister, Robbi Cook.
Doogie said from what hes heard it appears Ms. Cook will be competing against eight other fighters in the 125-pound featherweight division.
Ive seen some of them on Youtube and some of them have their own pages for being Olympic Hopefuls, Doogie said, adding three of the other fighters, in addition to Michelle have been designated by USA Boxing as Olympic Hopefuls.
The contingent, which will be representing Standing Rock Boxing Club is scheduled to leave this afternoon. Doogie said registration and physicals will be held on Saturday, with the tournaments brackets and seedings being determined on Sunday.
Just last week, Doogie said they had only raised $1,650 toward the $5,000 they needed to fund the trip, but since that time, the community has really come together to help make Ms. Cooks championship dreams come true.
I was in a constant panic, he said. I didnt know if we would raise enough money or not, but everyone else around me was keeping me calm. When asked if they were ever in danger of not actually being able to go to the tournament, Doogie, who is also a musician, said he wasnt going to allow that to happen.
I always knew she was going to make it, he said. I was going to sell my music equipment if I had to.
While the donations may have been slow coming in, once word was received that the trip may have been in jeopardy, Doogie said help started coming in.
In addition to receiving help from many private citizens, he said businesses from as far away as Watertown contributed to the efforts with Mr. Subs in Watertown making a donations.
They were joined by the Akwesasne Convenience Store Association, Java Veterinary, Twin Leaf, Tarbell Management Group, The Akwesasne Womens Singing Society, Within Reach, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Super 8 Motel, Dairy Queen and the Adirondack Association of USA Boxing.
We would like to thank all of the businesses and organizations that stepped forward to help make Michelles Olympic dream come true, Doogie said.
Ms. Cooks success had led the pair to be eying a professional debut this spring.
Our whole goal was to go pro in May, but that changed when she won the regionals, Doogie said. Now were shooting for the Olympics.
As for what shes thinking heading into the biggest tournament of her life, Ms. Cook said she knows shes in for some tough fights, but shes confident that the trip will be worthwhile.
These are going to be some of the toughest fights Ive ever had, she said. Im training hard and Im training to win.
Ms. Cook said if she didnt think she could win, she wouldnt even bother going.
You always have to be confident going into the ring, she said. If youre not confident, whats the point of going?
When asked how the tournament could potentially change her life, Ms. Cook said shes not expecting to change even if she wins it all and returns home to Massena a national champion.
The biggest change would be not fighting in regular club shows and fighting in international events, she said.
Doogie said, while Ms. Cook may not change as a person, a good showing in Spokane would definitely put her and Massena back on the boxing map.
We want to represent our area and make Massena, Akwesasne and the entire north country proud, he said.
Should things go well, Doogie said theyll hold a press conference at the gym when they return home prior to her first international fight.
Doogie said USA Boxing participates in 13 international events each year, noting that Ms. Cook, who is 20 now would be 23 years old and in the prime of her career in 2016 when the next Summer Olympics rolled around.
When asked if she ever envisioned herself trying out for the Olympics, Ms. Cook said she had no idea what began as a hobby would take her this far. Doogie on the other hand, said he knew she was a special fighter from the very beginning.
I saw it the first time I did mitts with her. Nobody believed me then, but they do now, he said. What everybody sees now, I saw on that first day.