Nashville’s Christy Halbert knows what it takes to win a fight. And her most recent victory might forever change the boxing world.
Halbert will join the ranks of President Gerald Ford, Bonnie Blair and Bud Greenspan when she is honored with The Olympic Torch Award on Friday at the 2011 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The award annually honors an individual who has made a positive impact on the Olympic movement in the United States and has made positive contributions to promoting Olympic ideals throughout the country.
When Halbert learned that boxing was going to be the only sport in the 2008 Olympics that did not include women, she was frustrated. As a female athlete (she starred in three sports at Brentwood High and earned a track and field scholarship to Western Kentucky University), she experienced firsthand struggles with discrimination from high school through her days as a professional.
“It felt personal,” Halbert said. “And then from an intellectual point of view, I couldn’t figure out how it was possible that someone could justify not having women in every sport.”
Halbert began heavily campaigning for the cause in 2007, meeting with people at the international level in order to change the minds of many about the opportunity for female boxers to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. By August 2009, her work paid off as the International Olympic Committee voted in favor of allowing women to compete in the sport.
Next year’s Olympics in London will feature 10 boxing classifications for men and three for women. It will mark the first time since the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis — when boxing was a display event — that female boxers can compete.
Since her first fight during her final semester at Western Kentucky, Halbert has made her mark in the boxing ring as a competitor, an instructor, and as an advocate. She has trained people all over the world, while inspiring young men and women of all ages and backgrounds throughout Nashville at Boxing Resource Center — the nonprofit organization she founded back in 2005.
Now 41, Halbert is one of the first and only women to achieve the highest level of coaching certification in USA Boxing, and her book The Ultimate Boxer: Understanding the Sport and Skills of Boxing remains a highly regarded instruction manual on the sport.
"Christy Halbert embodies the spirit of the Olympic Torch Award,” Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer, U.S. Olympic Committee, said. “Through her pioneering efforts in the sport of boxing, young female athletes will realize their Olympic dreams next year in London. Her devotion and commitment to the sport have truly had a significant impact on the Olympic Movement, both in the U.S. and throughout the world."
Halbert said she was shocked when she learned she was receiving this award, and she feels very humbled and honored.
“As advocates, we often work behind the scenes and our reward is positive social change, and with this award to be recognized is a unique thing and I’m excited about it,” she said. “It’s easy to see the road blocks, but getting an award like this is a reminder to me that I need to continue the work.”