Golden girl Katie tops off year of years
It was Conlan’s first Olympics and first medal, Barnes’ second Olympics and second bronze, for him an historical Irish first of two boxing medals from different Games.
Nevin went in for gold against Britain’s Luke Campbell with the scalp of the reigning bantamweight world champion Lázaro Álvarez of Cuba in his pocket after a breathless three rounds of dominance and occasional toying. Perhaps the Cuban was Nevin’s final this time round, the day and gold falling to Yorkshire man Campbell 14-11.
Katie came into the scene just as the men were in full flow but radiant none-theless; August 7th her Olympic debut against Britain’s Natasha Jonas. The party may have started but the lightweight’s arrival brought renewed fervour and a broader dimension to the understanding of women’s boxing.
It’s a conceit of the Olympics that nothing else compares and when Katie arrived not everyone would have known that she carried the World Championship crown, her fourth in succession won earlier that year in China.
But she and Jonas were as much a performance as a fight, an Olympic audition that not so much soared but ignited the competition. It was full blown, high tempo aggression. An eye opener. If there were still sceptics who needed converting, the fight was a tour de force that gave some answers, Jonas’s scorched-earth policy failing to the superior Irish girl.
The 26-year-old from Bray won it 26-15 and met Mavzuna Chorieva in the semi-final. More tactics, less high octane, the ExCel rumbled again as she picked off the Tajikistani boxer in death by a 1,000 cuts, winning 17-9. Sofya Ochigava, impertinent, dangerously smart and tough aired pre-final opinions that the Irish economy was on its knees because of the money paid over to the boxing judges and that the already canonised Katie was horribly venal. Quickly disproved as the Russian went ahead, the Olympic final was as predicted by her father and coach Pete, tactical and miserly.
But Katie could punch with Jonas or play chess with Ochigava. A counter-puncher against the world’s best boxer, the fight was a study in point-scoring and patience. Artful and measured, the 10,000 in the arena fell nervously quiet for most of it as Ochigava surged over the first two rounds and crucially nicked a lead before Katie came back. A knife-edge final round fell Ireland’s way and the dam burst in the ExCel.
Katie looked up to her God and then fell to her knees. That’s the image we hold. Oldcourt, her estate in Bray, erupted and 20,000 prepared to paint the town gold.
If ever a silver from Nevin and two bronzes from Conlan and Barnes could be so monstrously construed as a support act, this, absurdly, may have been the year. It was a year of years.