Kellie Harrington: Being an Olympic champion doesn’t define me

‘I’ve a target on my back. They’re not even boxing anymore, just dirty little tactics’

World and Olympic champion, grand marshall of the St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin - the soon to be married Kellie Harrington is taking everything with a wad of shamrock.

Harrington tends not to over inflate issues, even her important date with partner Mandy Loughlin. But she is finding it difficult to suppress the rip current of childhood memories of St Patrick's Day in Dublin city's inner city, her streets.

The World Championships in Istanbul in May, she knows are out there and she will arrive as the Tokyo gold medallist. But boxing being what it is, suffering from governance ataxia at national and international level, she has learned to chill.

“It’s kind of all last minute thing with boxing, you get told at the last minute really what you’re doing or where you’re going,” she says. “The real thing for any boxer is to always be ready.”


She just recently won the Strandja tournament in Bulgaria. It was more of a benchmark of where her game is right now than a need to have event. But there have been a few changes in how the rest of the world treats the Irish lightweight.

“I have a target on my back and they’re really, really trying, they’re trying to take me off the mat basically,” she says. “They’re getting more dirty as well. They’re not even boxing anymore, just doing dirty little tactics like if you get close they’re trying to push your head down or push their hand up into your face. I just keep laughing and it pisses them off even more.”

Harrington's life has been made easier with personal sponsors coming on board and today she is promoting the support of Permanent TSB as the first time title sponsor for both the Olympic and Paralympics for Paris 2024.

“It’s just mind blowing,” she says of the St Patrick’s Day event. “I remember going to that parade when I was a kid with me da, some of my brothers and some of the kids off the road.

“My da would bring us into the pound shop on the way in just there on Earl Street, get a bag of sweets. I remember it was always packed, jam packed and you’d have to squish yourself through the crowd to try and get up to the top barrier.

“My ma would have put curls in my hair or else crimp my hair. So my hair would be done and I’d be in the green and I’d have this big Paddy’s Day badge. Big badge pinned on to you and green ribbons in your hair. So when you tried to squish through, your hair and your ribbons would be getting caught in people’s buttons and zips and then you’d get to the front and watch the parade which was absolutely class.

"If you weren't there you'd be on top of Anna Livia, the 'Floozie in the Jacuzzi,' climbing up on top of that or else you would be trying to get up onto an electric box somewhere. They're my good memories of when I was a kid grown up going in there with my dad and now here I am being asked to be grand marshall along with Ellen (Keane, Paralympic medalist). Like that's the stuff of dreams."


Until the Bulgarian tournament Harrington had been out of the ring for seven months. After Tokyo, she went on holidays to Portugal and following some discussion, which went along the lines of "Mandy was telling me 'you are not doing the nationals you need a break.' I was: 'I am doing them.' She was: 'no, no you are taking a break'". She took the break, deciding rest and not competition would make her the better boxer for this year.

She has not been out of the ring for that length of time since she was injured although regular training underpins the Harrington lifestyle. Running, or, weights are part of a daily schedule whether she is competing or not.

But now that she is up and running, winning is, well, better than losing.

“Going out to that tournament in Strandja, I honestly felt, look, I’m not afraid to lose,” she says. “Not that I’m going out there to lose, I’m going out to tournaments like that to test myself, to see where I’m at and see where these other girls are at.

“If I go out there and am beat, then I’m beat. It’s sport, you get back up and go again. It doesn’t define me. The Olympic gold medal doesn’t define me either. I’m a good person. I like to make people happy. I’ve a good job.

“No I’m not afraid. I wasn’t going out there thinking I’ve got to win because I’m an Olympic champion. I’m going out there thinking ‘Let’s test the water.”

That’s done and the temperature is just fine.