Katie Taylor: ‘I’m not finished yet ... It’s just very hard to take’

Loss of Olympic boxing gold medal status follows loss of her world championship title

Katie Taylor is speechless after her loss to Finland’s Mira Potkonen in the opening bout of the women’s lightweight competition in Rio. Video: RTE

 

Storm clouds conspired in many forms over Irish Olympic hopes in Rio yesterday afternoon.

At the Gloria marina, Annalise Murphy’s medal race in the laser radial was finally called off after a frustrating afternoon, when the organisers deemed the winds to be initially too calm and finally too strong for racing.

That cancellation followed just hours after Katie Taylor had been controversially eliminated from the women’s lightweight 60kg quarter-finals, losing a split-decision to Finland’s Mira Potkonen.

Vulnerable

This seemed like more than a mere boxing defeat. Over her many years as a superb exemplar of women’s boxing and an iconic figurehead within it, Taylor has become a beloved figure in Irish life.

This loss of her Olympic gold medal status follows a miserable few months which also saw her relinquish the world championship title she had safeguarded for the previous half decade.

“I’m just sorry I couldn’t come home with a second Olympic gold medal,” the Bray woman said minutes after leaving the ring, looking, for the first time, vulnerable as a boxer.

“It’s been a very, very tough year and a very challenging year. I’ve had so many losses.” However, she said: “I’m not finished yet, that’s for sure. It’s just very hard to take.”

Her corner men were bitterly adamant that the Irish champion had been victim to arbitrary judging more than the Finnish boxer’s throws.

Taylor’s defeat deepens the sense of turmoil within the Irish boxing camp, with a succession of defeats following the abrupt departure by Michael O’Reilly following a failed drug test.

The rapid deterioration of the performance of Ireland’s boxing squad will substantiate the view that losing long-time coach Billy Walsh to the USA’s national team was an unforgivable folly.

Dismayed

However, Walsh seldom worked in Katie Taylor’s corner - and although she was dismayed by her defeat, she felt ready to compete again.

“The coaches around me were fantastic. I got plenty of spars over here. I was staying ready and sharp for this fight. It just didn’t happen for me.”

It might be that simple. Taylor is 30 now: her victor here is 35. Age is not an issue. Appetite may be. One of the contradictions of her life is that those who benefited most from her mission to elevate women’s boxing into Olympic inclusion – her opponents – are the very people who want to bring her down.

This has been a crushing year in an otherwise magnificent sporting life. This defeat will leave Taylor at a crossing point over the next few months.

The only surprise was that she lost with the same ineradicable class with which she had won gold on that famous afternoon in London four years ago.

“I’m just so humbled by that and the support over the last year has been absolutely incredible,” she said.

As it should be.

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