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Waking hours: A day in the life of boxer Kellie Harrington

Kellie Harrington (30) is a lightweight amateur boxer and double world medallist. She is hoping to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo. From Portland Row, she lives in Dublin with her partner, Mandy


Olympic hopeful Kellie Harrington says boxing saved her life

Olympic hopeful Kellie Harrington says boxing saved her life

Olympic hopeful Kellie Harrington says boxing saved her life

If my training session starts at 10am, I get up at 6.45am. I breakfast like a king. You want to have plenty of food to start the day off well. I have porridge with seeds, blueberries, banana, honey and a boiled egg, and two slices of toast. I drink a million cups of tea a day.

I live with my partner, Mandy. She used to be a boxer, but now she's a coach. She's up with me in the morning, and our two dogs. Mandy is from Foxrock, but she has lost all that. She's not a Foxrock head any more. I'm from the inner city and proud of it.

I'm an amateur boxer, but I train like a professional. I used to fight at 64kg and now I fight at 60kg. I've dropped down to lightweight because it's an Olympic weight.

I train in St Mary's in Tallaght, when I'm not with the Irish team. But when I'm with the Irish team, I train in Blanchardstown, in the Institute of Sport. My goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The qualifiers are this month, in London. The training sessions in the Institute are Tuesday to Friday, 10am and 4pm. They are tough sessions.

We do strength and conditioning, I'll do a boxing warm-up, and then we'll lift weights. For boxing, you need all-over strength. You punch from your hips up and from your legs up. That's where the power comes from, so you have to work everything.

The second training session is school of combat. It is like sparring, but it is very specific. So maybe one boxer is allowed to throw a left hand and the other is allowed to throw anything they want. You are training with men and women. We use skipping ropes at the start and the end, and we might do a running session on the indoor track.

We have five different coaches. I'm self-motivated for most things, but when I'm running on the track, I need somebody shouting at me to push it. Then I'll have a recovery shake and lunch - maybe chicken curry with rice. And then it's on again from 4pm until 5.30pm. It's pretty intense.

I'm from Portland Row in Dublin 1, and I'm also an ambassador for the north-east inner city. I'm very proud of my roots. The people in the north-east inner city are a fantastic bunch. Everybody sticks together, and if something happens one family, everybody gets on board to see what they can do to help out. Stuff like that doesn't happen all over the country.

I left school when I was 14. Then I did my Junior Cert with Youthreach, and I joined the army when I was 18. I left just before I was about to pass out as a two star [private]. It wasn't for me.

When I was younger, I was going down a bumpy road. Luckily for me, I chose the right road in the end. A lot of kids in the inner city have old heads on young shoulders, and I was like that. I was very street-smart - I'd buy and sell you - but academically, I wasn't the sharpest tool in the box. I started drinking at a very young age, but I knew that I needed to change.

There are boxing clubs on every corner of the inner city, and I got into one. It's a different discipline in a boxing club. You are surrounded by people who have a goal and a plan. That got me hooked. Boxing gives me a great adrenaline rush. I love everything about it.

I'm a double world medallist. And last year, I got a silver medal in the European Games. In January, I got a silver medal in Bulgaria. Now it's all about the Olympic qualifiers this month.

I'm on a government grant now, and without that, I couldn't do anything. And then you have the likes of McSport coming on board. The thing about sponsors is that it makes you feel appreciated and that someone has a bit of faith in you. They are backing me and boxing. I have a garage at the side of my house filled with McSport gym equipment, and I use it when I'm not out at the Institute.

When I'm away boxing, it's cool to have a close bond with your teammates and your room-mate. Money can't buy you these things. It's about connection, commitment and dedication.

Boxing saved my life. The volunteers in all the boxing clubs around Dublin saved my life because they put in endless hours of work.

At weekends, I work in St. Vincent's Psychiatric Hospital in Fairview. A few months ago, my job was catering. I was giving out the dinners. I had a real bond with the patients. But now that I'm doing so much boxing, they had to replace me. Now I clean in the hospital at weekends.

It's important to know the value of work and the value of money. You never know what might happen, and then, all of a sudden, you are stuck. The hospital is my back-up plan. I enjoy it, and if I had to go back and work there full-time, it would be fine.

When I come home in the evenings, Mandy is usually down in the boxing club, coaching. A lot of the time, we are passing each other by.

In the evenings, I watch a bit of telly, but I'm in bed at 10pm and asleep by 10.30pm. I need to get enough hours.

I've always been competitive. There is always a goal. Yes, everyone wants a gold medal, but I just want to be the best version of me. I set out to change my life, and boxing has changed my life. As long as I'm improving every day, not just in boxing, but in life, then that's the gold standard.



@mcsportireland @kelly64kg

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer


McSport Ireland is proud to sponsor lightweight boxer Kellie Harrington

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