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PEI fighter a star in Nova Scotia

Injured MacMillan wins gold

Ian Froese, Staff Contributor

 

The Forum buzzed like it hadn’t all evening, and it wasn’t even for a Nova Scotian.

“PEI! PEI! PEI!” the audience shouted. Their noise was deafening. Their support was extraordinary. Robert MacMillan suddenly became the crowd’s own; adopted delightfully by 5500 smiling parents.

A flurry of jabs and crosses enabled the Island boxer to close his three point deficit to one against Ontario southpaw Kingsley Alexander in the 81-kilogram class. It was 8 – 7 after two rounds.

The unexpected boost from the pro-PEI crowd prior to the final round was maybe all the added support MacMillan needed.

With the audience and the Nova Scotian fighters on his side, MacMillan answered with an explosive attack, notching point after point. A standing eight-count midway through the stanza nearly clinched the contest. Each second the referee counted raised the audience’s joy exponentially.

When the round closed, MacMillan was greeted to a robust standing ovation. The 17-year-old fighter returned to his red corner. One of his coaches congratulating him would later pause, scanning the audience to his right. His expression said it all: he was in awe.

MacMillan notched a remarkable 12 points in the third round to win 19 – 12.

As great a performance as it was, Halifax almost didn’t have the opportunity to watch the thrilling bout. MacMillan wasn’t going to be there.

The fighter broke his foot in late December playing soccer and there were doubts whether he could get the cast off in time to trade punches at the Forum.

“It was pretty scary,” said PEI head coach Howard Watts. “We thought that was it. No Games for him.”

“When they said at the very least that it would be six to eight weeks, period. I said I didn’t think  he could do it.”

Watts is thrilled he was proven wrong.

While playing intramural soccer at school on December 20, the boxer rolled his ankle. Doctors told him it would take six to eight weeks until he could discard the cast, not long before the Canada Games. And then he would need to train in the ring. An appearance in the Games was doubtful for the Island athlete.

However he trained hard, refusing to rest. MacMillan had his cast removed in six weeks.

“That’s what amazed us, that he was able to keep his conditioning up,” Watts said, his enthusiasm infectious even an hour after his pupil’s phenomenal comeback. “He was working at the gym, doing sit-ups with his cast on. Most people wouldn’t do that, hey? We’re very proud of him.” He also trained his upper-body by swimming, and completing pushups and chin-ups. All with his cast on.

His walk was a limp instead when MacMillan’s cast was detached on February 3. He returned to the ring about a week later to get his foot back to 100 percent. It didn’t happen.

“No, not in the foot work. No, he wasn’t,” said his coach. “Everything was flat-footed with him, he wasn’t able to, you know, stand (in the proper position), he had to move his whole body around.”

With the gold medal strung from his neck, MacMillian remembered to thank his family, friends, teachers and physiotherapist Colin Moore for their support in returning him to boxing, and eventually propelling him to gold.

“So many people helped out,” said the soft-spoken bruiser, amidst congratulatory comments from friends and family. “They knew that this was something really important to me, they would let me leave and go (to my physiotherapist to) take care of myself.”

MacMillian became the hero of a house of 5500. He battled the odds to even wear the gloves on the national stage, and now he has a gold medal to show for it.

Praise should deservingly be directed to MacMillan for the incredible dedication he displayed in the ring, but, even still, he would not forget to thank his support network.

“I had to win it for everybody. Everybody that supported me.”

And this is the sport they want to eliminate from the Games.

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