Kellie Harrington became only the second Irish female boxer to claim an Olympic medal after capturing women’s middleweight gold with a unanimous decision win over Beatriz Ferreira in a hard-fought final.
Nine years after Katie Taylor stood atop the podium in London, Harrington triumphed in the exact same weight category as her compatriot, rallying after a punishing opening round that Ferreira edged on the scorecards.
Three of the five judges had the Brazilian ahead but Harrington adjusted to the onslaught of her opponent, mixing up her stance and boxing behind her jab while allowing her opponent to walk on to some bruising blows.
All five officials sided with Harrington in the last two rounds and the 31-year-old from Dublin slouched to her knees upon being declared the victor at the Kokugikan Arena.
“I have no words,” she said. “The hard work, dedication, sacrifice that has gone into this. The lonely moments, the tears. My family knows, my coaches know, the coaches here know, it hasn’t even hit yet.
“I’m crying as I have a sense of relief. When I get back and I’m in my room on my own, or when I get to the team, it will hit, but I don’t know, I’m just relieved.
“I never have any expectations going into tournaments. I just go in and expect to perform. I just focus on me and good things happen then. When you can do all of the little things, good things come after that.
“I do love that I have this medal, but it’s step by step to get there and performance is key. If you don’t perform well then you can’t move on to the next stage. I don’t go out saying I want a gold medal as then, if the s*** hits the fan, then you don’t get anything.”
Harrington’s success marks the first time Ireland have won golds in two different sports at the same Olympics, with rowers Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan triumphing in the men’s lightweight double sculls earlier in the Games.
Harrington is just the third Irish boxer to go all the way in the event, following in the footsteps of Taylor and Michael Carruth, who made history at Barcelona 1992 when he topped the podium in the men’s welterweight category.
“I’m an Olympic champion but it doesn’t define me as a person,” said Harrington, who plans to return to work as a part-time cleaner at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin after a two or three-week break.
“At home, I’d say it will be a bit mental, but I’ll be back at work, back doing my normal thing, that’s what keeps me grounded. My circle (of friends) is very small and it will be staying very small.
“I’m going to just keep doing what I do. Nothing will change. I won’t start thinking I’m something that I’m not. This is me. I will continue to be this way – except I’ll have my gold medal.
“I’ll get home, have a break, eat loads of pizza. I’m sure there will be a little party in work for me and I’ll be bringing my medal there.”
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