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Television review: Katie the superhuman being

  • Katie (RTE1)


True champ .... Katie shows off her Olympic gold medal with dad Pete

True champ .... Katie shows off her Olympic gold medal with dad Pete

True champ .... Katie shows off her Olympic gold medal with dad Pete

Film director Ross Whitaker, who made the excellent documentary Katie, clearly has an eye for the great figures of Irish life. A few years ago he worked on a documentary about gambling which was shown on RTE2, and which featured appearances by me and Joe O'Shea - though Joe was the actual presenter, and I was only on it for a few minutes, it showed that Whitaker was ready to deal with some of the big players.

So apart from anything else, I am proud of him, and his achievement in making Katie such a fine piece of work, and I'm sure that Ross himself would be the first to acknowledge all that he learned on that gambling project, in terms of dealing with the special requirements of highly-tuned performers.

At first glance the similarities are perhaps not so striking, in the sense that my role in the gambling documentary was to be interviewed in the stand at Clonmel Races on a bleak November day, saying the same things over and over again until one of them was vaguely usable - whereas the task with Katie Taylor was more about filming the adventures of one of the greatest athletes in this country or indeed in the world, as she strives towards the destiny that in some superhuman sense she imagined for herself.

Superficially - I think you'll agree - we wouldn't be comparing like with like here. But at a deeper level... well, we probably wouldn't be comparing like with like at a deeper level either.

Still I enjoyed this Katie very much, which I suppose is a contribution in itself. And I only regret that it wasn't shown more than once last week, to fill our souls with something other than the degeneration of our western democracies and the terrible people who have brought that about.

We could indeed have done with a Katie day, with RTE1 just sealing off last Tuesday and taking the executive decision to show nothing but the story of a good and gifted person who has worked ceaselessly to honour those gifts to the absolute limit of her physical and spiritual capabilities.

You didn't see many of them knocking around last week, as the attention of the TV world settled on events at the Palace of Westminster. You saw very little goodness there, and as for giftedness, if the ability to bring the United Kingdom to its knees without even trying too hard is a gift, only then were we looking at something to elevate the soul - though the piece with Nigel Farage on Channel 4 News in which the interviewer pointed out that Farage had taken a private plane from London to Strasbourg, just like a member of the despised "elite", certainly helped to pass some of the time that should have been spent watching Katie.

Yes you could watch that all day long, literally, and any other way. Because this is the power of Katie Taylor - she is better than most of us, she has more talent, she has a stronger temperament, she works harder, she is even much better looking.

For the greatest fighters, this has often been the way. Muhammad Ali would constantly proclaim that the way he looked, his extreme personal beauty, was as important as his ability to get the job done - and while Katie Taylor does not do this, we can see from Ross Whitaker's portrayal that there is no need.

She looks like a mythical creature in every sense, but unlike Ali, she is not boastful. She is whatever is the opposite of boastful, and yet that in itself works as a profound force. Indeed the true profundity of her achievement is that she dreamed of things that did not exist until she willed them into being - she wanted to be an Olympic champion in her sport, but hers was not an Olympic sport until she raised it to that place.

When her father Pete went his own way, she also lost her way for a while, and bewildered though she still seems by that defeat at the Rio Olympics, her last words in this documentary ring as true as all the others: "My best days are always ahead."

Sunday Indo Living