A dream fulfilled
WHEN KATIE Taylor’s hand was held aloft as Olympic champion in the Excel Arena in London yesterday evening, it was one of those sublime moments in sport that catch the breath and warm the heart. This was deliverance for one of the country’s greatest sports stars who has dominated women’s boxing over the last seven years. A sporting heroine long before London, she has married outstanding talent with a modesty and humility that has endeared her to the Irish public.
The jubilant scenes around the country and the huge TV audience which watched her fights in London illustrate how her achievement has touched even those with only a casual interest in sport. It has been the fulfilment of a sporting dream for Taylor as well as the Irish sporting public which has tracked every step of her career.
The Bray boxer has been the dominant figure on the international boxing scene since winning her first European championship in 2005. Four world championship victories later she travelled to London with the weight of favouritism as the women’s division of the sweet science took its bow at the Olympics.
As many great champions will testify, being favourite can work two ways. It can prove too much of a weight to carry or else act as the ideal incentive to showcase the talent and skills that have been forged over years of tough training and single-minded dedication.
The new Olympic champion is very much in the latter category. In the raucous atmosphere of the boxing arena in London’s docklands, Taylor found the stage her ambition and technical brilliance had always deserved. Her peers across a wide range of sports have been among the first to acknowledge her exceptional ability and the role she has played in the relatively slow evolution of women’s sport in Ireland and internationally.
Current and former stars from boxing, including former world heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, have also effusively praised Taylor and the standard of competition in London. That type of endorsement will sit well with the International Olympic Committee which had to withstand criticism for introducing women’s boxing to the Olympics.
The IOC struck lucky that in the year women’s boxing made its Olympic debut it also minted gold in a champion of the calibre of Taylor. One of the mottoes of London 2012 has been “Inspire a Generation”. Our new Olympic champion has done that and more.