Harrington not losing sight of bigger picture as she bids for medal glory

Ireland’s number one seed in the lightweight division keeping her feet firmly on the ground

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington (red) defeated Italy’s Rebecca Nicoli in her opening fight at the Olympics and on Tuesday will fight Algeria’s Almane Khelifi for a guaranteed bronze medal. Photograph: Buda Mendes/AFP/Getty

Tokyo is loving Kellie. Kellie is loving Tokyo and life and being Kellie.

For the Irish lightweight, this could be her week of weeks. A second bout on August 3rd against Algeria's Almane Khelifi for a guaranteed bronze medal in her first Olympic Games may be enough to bring people to the streets around her home patch of Portland Row in Dublin's north inner city.

Harrington is nothing if not a blizzard of common sense and purpose. They have always been her traits. Olympic medal fight, what Olympic medal fight. You might wonder if Kellie has been listening to lightweight Olympic rowing champion Paul O’Donovan or O’Donovan to Kellie.

"Look, this is a great achievement for me to be competing in the Olympic Games but if it happened, it happened because I'm more than just a boxer. I'm Kellie Harrington, I'm a giving person," she says.

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“I have a fantastic family and a great job at home. I just want to say hello to everyone in St Vincent’s Hospital. That’s who I am. This is just a part of me and a part of the journey I’m on in life, it’s not the destination. What I’ll do after this, I don’t know.”

A full-time boxer, she has not given up her job in the hospital, although, it is occasional now. Equity between ordinary life and what elite sport can throw her way like the pandemic and a postponed Olympics is an important consideration and it’s probably better for her head than talking about her next opponent, Khelifi.

“At the end of the day nobody knows what boxing is going to do for them. So you always need to have something outside of boxing,” she says.

“I’ve been saying to this to a lot of people lately, that you need to have a life outside of boxing because there is more to life than sport and anything can happen in sport and you need something to fall back on.

“And my job is what I fall back on and when I get home from the Olympic Games, I’ll be doing my restricted movements or whatever I have to do and then I’ll be straight back into work because that’s who I am as a person and that’s the way I roll.”

The unseeded Khelifi, like Harrington, also received a bye in the first round before beating Mariem Homrani Zayani from Tunisia 5-0.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times