Interview with Katie Taylor: In the clearing stands a boxer
Twelve months on from London 2012, Katie talks about how life has changed
In an age of soundbites, Twitter and Facebook promotion, Katie Taylor remains stylishly outmoded, a reluctant participant in the celebrity cat walk. Despite her indifference to the showbiz swirl she became one of the spirits of London last summer when the world was watching, an accidental zeitgeist of women’s boxing in the biggest show on earth.
It is as it always has been almost exactly a year after winning the first women’s lightweight Olympic gold medal. August 9th was her time, her moment – a raised hand, a glance to her father Pete, a tilt of her head for a quick thanks and to her knees. The country went with her.
Her ring of authenticity still chimes and now after a year of regeneration there is time to cast her eye just briefly over her shoulder but more urgently forwards. Hers is an undimmed, academic calculation of what improvements she has to make to repeat London 2012 at Rio 2016 and if there is any preoccupation in her voice or in that of Pete, it is the certainty that the world’s best female boxer needs to improve to avoid future calamity.
“When Rio comes around I don’t think people will recognise Katie from London. I think she will be 30 per cent better,” says Pete. She nods her head. She believes she will be. She has rarely been wrong.
“People say you will be 30-years-old, you’re too old, you’ll get your nose broke, say dad’s a pushy dad,” she adds, pointing absurdly at Pete. “You hear stupid things and put them out of your mind. Age is a chronological number. That’s all. There is plenty of time for my life afterwards. I’m still a young woman.”
When she arrived home last summer and the dust had settled everyone wanted a piece. Speculation was an Olympic sport; a book, a documentary, who, what, where was her boyfriend, her favourite shop, colour, film and recipe. And she was house hunting, a bird ready to fly the nest and planning to express her success in bricks and mortar. A full page spread on a pad in Rocky Valley at the foot of the Sugarloaf mountain in Co Wicklow appeared as the perfect €1.5 million bolt hole for an Olympic champion.
“We looked at two houses. We looked at one when we came back and then another one. There was a big article saying we’d a €1.5 million budget to spend,” she says with an incredulous expression. “It showed a picture of the house. Like . . . we didn’t even look at it. I’m in the public eye. I’m recognised a small bit more. That’s part and parcel of it.
“I’m still living at home, same place . . . I’ve the same friends around so nothing much has changed in my personal life.”
There has been little change and there have also been seismic shifts. She looks the same but she is slightly heavier. She thinks no differently but is more ambitious, has achieved her life’s goal and has constructed others. There is no standing still.
This year at July’s European Union Championships was the first she ever had to work to make 60 kilos. It’s not a problem but another adjustment and she knows her body’s rhythms like the violinist who can tell the humidity of a room by the timbre of the strings. To listen to her roll off the numbers is to catch a glimpse of a boxer’s enduring relationship with the scales as well as Katie’s changing landscape. Like the rest of her accords with the sport, it’s not obsessively unhealthy but calculated and in check.