‘My head is just ready to explode’: Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington arrives home

Athletes and medal winners from Team Ireland return from Tokyo Olympics

Irish boxer and Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington was paraded on an open-top bus through the streets of Dublin's north inner city on Tuesday as she made the final leg of the journey home from Tokyo.

The bus started from Clonliffe House pub and toured through Summerhill and Sean McDermott Street before returning arriving at Harrington’s home in Portland Row. The athlete did not leave the bus at any time because of Covid-19 regulations.

Crowds of fans and locals lined the streets to welcome the Olympic champion home and could be heard signing “Ole, ole, ole” and chanting the athlete’s name.

Tricolour flags, scarves and hats were sold to people as they arrived, and gold balloons were left outside her family home.


Noel O’Rourke, the manager of Clonliffe House said the pub was busy as people gathered to watch the bus, with Harrington and fellow boxer Emmet Brennan stood on top, pass by.

“If was fantastic, everyone was in high spirits and it really gave everyone a great lift in the area to see local athletes doing well,” he said.

“All the staff were outside looking at the bus to see Kellie and Emmet - the pub was empty for a few minutes when they were passing by.”

Earlier, at Dublin Airport, it wasn’t the type of homecoming you would expect for the gold and bronze Olympic medallists; there were no large crowds of fans waving tricolour flags, but a gathering of the athletes’ close family and friends awaited their arrival in the VIP section.

The Dublin Airport fire service provided a special escort for the returning athletes and medal winners of Team Ireland, with the tricolour on display, and a handful of fans turned up to take photographs.

“There’s not that many people here because of Covid so I think when I see the people on my road it’ll be great. I think when I see them I’m probably going to end up bawling my eyes out,” Harrington said.

The boxer was “glad people are finally getting to see that the community in Portland Row is absolutely smashing, and that’s in the good and the bad times”.

The aftermath of her Olympic final win against Beatriz Ferreira had been "overwhelming" and Harrington "hadn't slept since the fight" except for "a couple of snoozes on the plane".

“My head is just ready to explode. I’ve never experienced this before,” she said.

In the immediate hours after the fight, she was able to speak to her long-time partner, Mandy Loughlin “for about ten minutes on the phone,” so she was looking forward to spending time with her family and her dogs now that she is back on Irish soil.

“I think it will take me a couple of weeks to realise what has actually happened and what I have achieved. As boring as it sounds, I just want to put my feet up and watch some telly, drink some tea, eat scones and other stuff that I can actually eat now without having to check my weight.”


It “meant the world” to bring a gold medal home to Ireland, but “everyone who stepped into that ring is a champion,” Harrington said. The Olympic gold medallist hoped that with the success of Team Ireland would come “lots of funding for local boxing clubs”.

Asked what was next for the athlete, she had “no idea” and planned to “take things day by day.” And as for her sudden fame? “What is fame? You can be famous and be a bit of a you know what . . . I’m all about humility,” she said.

Arriving home from Japan with Harrington and the other Irish athletes was bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, from Belfast, who encouraged young people interested in boxing to "never stop dreaming."

“Everyone is talented at something, but if you’re willing to put in the work, the sky is the limit for you. There’s no other secrets, just keep dreaming,” he said.

His bronze medal win seemed “surreal” to the athlete.

“I just feel extremely lucky and grateful,” he said, adding that he looked forward to “seeing what I can do in the next few years, and how far I can go and push myself”.

For now, he wanted to go to his caravan with his girlfriend, “have a Chinese and a can of Coke and take it easy”.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, welcomed the athletes home and said the city was “bursting with pride”.

“We recognise the enormity of their achievements as we have lived through the highs and lows of elite Olympic competition. We recognise the importance of local sporting clubs, coaches and volunteers in providing the essential building blocks of world class athleticism,” she said.

“Had it not been for Covid, Dublin would have thrown open its streets to all who wanted to show their pride and passion for our amazing Olympians - perhaps, in the future when Covid is well and truly passed, we can come together and celebrate with joy their amazing achievements.”