Monday 16 September 2019

'This just didn't happen overnight' - Kellie Harrington targeting Olympic gold after world title win

Kellie Anne Harrington of Ireland gestures with her gold medal after winning the 60kg category final fight at the 2018 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in New Delhi on November 24, 2018. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images
Kellie Anne Harrington of Ireland gestures with her gold medal after winning the 60kg category final fight at the 2018 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in New Delhi on November 24, 2018. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images
Harrington became the first Irish boxer to win medals in two different weights at this level when taking gold in the 60kg division in New Delhi. Photo: AIBA/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Ireland's newly-crowned world lightweight champion Kellie Harrington has set her sights on repeating yesterday's gold medal performance at the Tokyo Olympics in two years' time. "It's my dream to do this again at the Olympics," she said.

Two years after emerging from virtually nowhere to win a silver medal in the light welterweight (64kg) division at the world championships in Kazakhstan, Harrington became the first Irish boxer to win medals in two different weights at this level when taking gold in the 60kg division in New Delhi.

She beat Thai southpaw Supaporn Srisondee on a split 3-2 decision after a tactical fight which could have gone either way. But three of the five ringside judges gave the Dubliner the nod in two of the three rounds which secured her a first world title and only Ireland's third gold medal at this level.

But the vagaries of the judging system were evident as one of the other judges awarded Srisondee all three rounds while the final judge scored it 29-28 in favour of the Thai boxer. But, thanks to the three 29-28 scores in favour of the Irish champion, it was her hand which was raised by the referee.

Harrington, who celebrates her 29th birthday on December 11, said the magnitude of what she had achieved hadn't sunk in yet. "I don't think it will until I get home and see my family. It's hard to sleep after becoming champion of the world.

"I want to thank my family and friends back home. They have been amazing, especially my family, and without their support it would be very hard to do this. The last two years have been amazing and I feel everything is coming into place.

"This just didn't happen overnight, it's been tough work. I have been training for this since 2016 when I got the silver medal. I wanted to drop down to lightweight and I knew I could do it and I kept plugging away. There was (training) camp after camp and they weren't any old camp, they were all picked especially so we could reach our peak here.

"The final was fight number five. We had a game plan going in to every fight. We didn't just go in there 'willy-nilly'. The coaches sat me down and told me the tactics. It was up to me to perform and once I performed the results speak for themselves.

"My final opponent was a strong and tricky southpaw. It was one round at a time. I wasn't thinking of the medal at all. But we had a plan and it worked.

"Zaur Anita is one of the best coaches in the world and to have him training us out in Abbottstown in an honour. He has had a massive influence on my my career.

"Dmitry Dimitruk, who works with has Zaur in the High Performance Unit has been fantastic as well. They work very well together and when I see everything they do for us you want to go out and perform well. My club coach in St Mary's in Tallaght Noel Burke has also been a big help."

Irish team manager Bernard Dunne, head of the IABA's high performance programme, described Harrington's final as exceptional.

"We had a plan for the fight which she carried out to perfection. She has been absolutely fantastic during the whole tournament. Her preparation was really good and this has been Kellie's focus for a long time and she got the result she deserves.

"The Thai opponent was extremely difficult, she had a fantastic left hand and we tried to combat that by staying away from it. Kellie countered with her movement with her own left hook and jab and being able to switch. Kellie can box orthodox, she can box southpaw, she can box on the back foot and box going forward. She is multi-talented and it is great to see," said the former world professional champion.

Ireland finished sixth in the medals' table and along with Germany, who had former Irish coach Eddie Bolger in their corner, were the only European countries to win a gold medal.

However, a giant shadow hangs over the future of boxing in the Olympics following the controversial decision of AIBA, the sport's world governing body, to elect controversial businessman Gafur Rakhimov, who has alleged links with organised crime in central Asia, as its new President earlier this month.

The International Olympic Committee had threatened to drop boxing from the 2020 Games in Tokyo if Rakhimov was elected and this decision could be taken as early as next weekend when the IOC executive meet in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, new world champion will be accorded a civic reception by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring who played a key role in securing her funding from Dublin City Council in 2016 after she make her breakthrough at world level.

Sunday Indo Sport

The Throw-In: Selection dilemma for Dublin and All-Ireland ladies football final preview

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport