Friday 2 December 2016

Bronze bonus as Taylor and Harrington seal places at Rio Olympics

Bernard O'Neill

Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30

Kellie Harrington is all smiles after her victory in Astana. Photo: AIBA via Sportsfile
Kellie Harrington is all smiles after her victory in Astana. Photo: AIBA via Sportsfile

The empress strikes back!

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Katie Taylor blew away speculation about her demise following her first defeat in five years last month to qualify for her second successive Olympics after beating Mexico's Victoria Torres at the World Women's Elite Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan yesterday.

The last-eight win ensures that Ireland will be taking home at least two bronze medals from Central Asia, as earlier yesterday Kellie Harrington advanced to the last-four at the expense of Kazakhstan's Zarina Tsoloyeva in the light-welter class.

A top-four finish is enough to secure Rio 2016 qualification in the three women's Olympic weights of flyweight, lightweight and middleweight, and Taylor booked her ticket in robust style in Astana.

"It's definitely a big weight off my shoulders. The Olympic Games have always been the most important thing for me," said the Olympic lightweight champion.

"It has always been a dream of mine since London 2012. This is every boxer's dream."

The durable Mexican was clearly up for battle, as was Taylor. Punches were flying in from all angles, but the Bray woman, while soaking up a few body shots, repeatedly got the better of the big exchanges.

Taylor had a particularly good spell midway through the second round, catching her opponent with flashing left hooks while displaying excellent footwork to get out of the way of any return fire.

Torres was still up for it in the third but the fire was going out of her work toward the end of the frame, leaving Taylor to take the round and the final stanza en route to the verdict that confirmed her as a two-time Irish Olympian.

Taylor will meet France's Estelle Mosselly, whom she has beaten three times, in the semi-finals tomorrow, two wins away from becoming the first woman in the history of the sport to claim six World titles on the bounce.

Mosselly beat Azerbaijan's Yana Alexseevna, who beat Taylor in the European Rio 2016 qualifiers in Turkey last month.

Earlier yesterday, Harrington guaranteed Ireland a first bronze after outpointing Kazakhstan's Zarina Tsoloyeva in the non-Olympic 64kg quarter-final.

Harrington, like Taylor, took a 40-36 decision across the board. She meets Canada's Sara Kali tomorrow looking to upgrade to at least silver.

"Absolutely over the moon, words can't describe it, " said the clearly emotional Dubliner after becoming the only Irish female boxer besides Taylor to medal at this level.

"I am just so happy I have been boxing ten years and now my time has finally came. I am like a sponge and soaking it all up this is such a lifetime experience for me."

Meanwhile, Offaly's Grainne Walsh had to settle for a top-eight finish after she suffered a nose injury and her welterweight quarter-final with Kazakhstan's Valentina Khalzova was stopped in the second round with the home boxer ahead on points.

Taylor, Paddy Barnes, Brendan Irvine, Michael Conlan, David Oliver Joyce, Steven Donnelly and Joe Ward have now qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics. The previous record for Irish boxers qualified for the Olympics since the current system was introduced for the 1992 Olympiad was six apiece at Barcelona '92 and London 2012.

Taylor helped smash that record yesterday with two qualifiers (for men) remaining after Kazakhstan. Today is a rest day in Astana.

Irish Independent

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