Olympic gold medal winner Kellie Harrington: 'This time I really, really feel the whole country is behind me'

The 31-year-old from Portland Row, North Strand, Dublin becomes the third Irish fighter after Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor to secure Olympic gold.
Olympic gold medal winner Kellie Harrington: 'This time I really, really feel the whole country is behind me'

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington (red) celebrates with her gold medal

Different class in the ring, oozing class outside of it.

Kellie Harrington, the new Olympic champion, was thinking of her fellow competitors in the minutes after the greatest success of her boxing career in Tokyo.

“We are all champions, anyone who steps between those ropes is a champion,” smiled the 31-year-old after victory in the Olympic lightweight final at Kokugikan Arena.

“I might have got the gold - but we are all champions.” Harrington defeated Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira (28) by an unanimous decision in a thrilling exhibition of boxing and for the powerhouse from Portland Row there was just one overriding emotion now that the golden medal hangs around her neck.

“Relief.” 

Harrington’s victory sees her join Katie Taylor and Michael Carruth in boxing’s golden circle with the latter was amongst the first to offer congratulations.

Taylor followed shortly afterwards.

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington (red) celebrates winning the gold medal
Ireland’s Kellie Harrington (red) celebrates winning the gold medal

Much like Taylor in 2012, Harrington entered these games with high hopes, ranked as the number-one seed in the lightweight classification.

Today’s task could hardly have been tougher, however, Ferreira’s status as reigning world champion and pre-tournament favourite testament to that. 

Fresh from a semi-final decimation of Mira Potkonen, the Salvador native sought to stamp her initiative on proceedings again here, the ballast in her shots clear to see as she thudded home with scoring blows in the early going. 

Harrington, who had her own impressive display against Sudaporn Seesondee last time out, returned with rapid volleys in what was a keenly contested opener, landing with rapier-like one-twos as she sprung off the ropes.

Although Ferreira stole an early march on the scorecards through round one, it was Harrington who seemed more attuned to the pace and rhythm in the second, dexterously detonating sharp leads with left hand and right, feinting adeptly to diffuse her opponent as Ferreira was increasingly made to miss with swathes of shots.

Cognisant of that turning tide, the Brazilian endeavoured to close the distance with further barrages in the final stanza as Harrington continued to box fluidly from distance, employing her superior height and reach advantages to score with quality hooks and backhand shots, staying in the pocket in spots to trade off in what was a grandstand finish.

Harrington’s Olympic crown tops an already stellar array of in-ring honours, the 31-year-old boasting world championship gold and silver medals from 2016 and 2018 respectively, as well as prolific podium success at European level.

Locals gather to watch Irish Olympic boxer Kellie Harringtons fight this morning on a big screen on Portland Row, Dublin this morning. Celebrations started shortly after the announcment that Kelly has won Gold at the Toyko Olympics. Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie
Locals gather to watch Irish Olympic boxer Kellie Harringtons fight this morning on a big screen on Portland Row, Dublin this morning. Celebrations started shortly after the announcment that Kelly has won Gold at the Toyko Olympics. Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

Her Tokyo 2020 efforts, coupled with those of newly enshrined bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, take Irish boxing’s Olympic honours tally to 18.

"There have been times in my career where people say: 'the whole country is behind you.' This time I really, really feel the whole country is behind me. People might say that brings pressure, that you have weight on your shoulders.

“But I actually really didn't (feel pressure), because I knew no matter what happened out here, whether it was gold or silver or whatever, I knew I'd made myself proud.

“And I'd made the people of Ireland proud, regardless of the colour of the medal.

"Just being here, putting our little nation on the map ... it's the stuff of dreams.” 

The celebrations kicked off early at home but Harrington isn’t dreaming of parades and plaudits on her return to Dublin.

Instead, like her very essence, she is dreaming of something understated and low key.

“It's just fantastic, I can't wait to get home, to sit on my couch, to sleep, to rest!

“I'm absolutely exhausted to be honest. I'm like a fluffy pigeon going around, I'm that grey at this stage!

"But what a journey. I'm speechless again, it's just amazing."

Different class. Different class.

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