Kellie Harrington: Three tense rounds in Tokyo lead to gold

31-year-old wins Olympic lightweight title as third female Irish athlete to take gold

Olympic gold medal winner Kellie Harrington: ‘It’s been an incredible journey to get here.’ Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Olympic gold medal winner Kellie Harrington: ‘It’s been an incredible journey to get here.’ Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

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In the end it took just nine minutes.

Kellie Harrington’s journey from a troubled kid in inner-city Dublin to the darling of Tokyo lasted just three tense rounds, a life’s work squeezed into a few moments.

It was enough for the 31 year old to claim the Olympic lightweight title and become just the third female Irish athlete to have won an Olympic gold medal after boxer Katie Taylor in London 2012 and swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin in Atlanta 1996.

On the announcement of her unanimous-decision win in Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena, Harrington fell to her knees, not quite believing she had beaten the current World Champion, Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira.

Not unlike Taylor’s bout against Russia’s Sofya Ochigava nine years ago, few watching could have called the outcome of the bout, so close were the two finalists.

Harrington lost the first round 3-2, when the judges found Ferreira had done the better work.

Boxing from a distance

But boxing from a distance and using the entire ring as Ferreira relentlessly marched forwards in an effort to close space, Harrington danced and wove her way around the ring.

In a contrast of styles, it was Harrington’s clever anticipation of how Ferreira would fight that allowed her diminish the raw power of the Brazilian.

“It’s been an incredible journey to get here,” said Harrington after the medal ceremony.

“I’m so thankful the Olympics was able to go ahead in the first place and I just wanted to thank the people of Japan for allowing this to happen.

“I’m grateful to those who couldn’t be here today or any of the days. I just felt we wanted to say thank you and that’s what we did as a team. We bowed because I know bowing is a mark of respect in Japan.”

Rounds two and three were more productive for Harrington who grew into the contest, having weathered the first round of aggression from Ferreira. The judges flipped to give her the second round, all five of them voting Irish for 5-0.

Unanimous decision

That was repeated in the third round, Harrington again scoring and moving until the final bell, the judging cards showing she also won the third round 5-0 for the unanimous decision.

The women’s lightweight event was added to the Olympic roster in London. Out of three competitions, London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, Ireland has won two titles.

Before travelling to Japan, where the Irish team has been for six weeks, Harrington had asked her coaches if she could return home if she got homesick. She had never been away from Ireland for more than 2½ weeks.

“[I] said it to the coaches, ‘Listen if I get homesick after three weeks, I’m afraid of how I’m going to perform,’” said Harrington. “‘My performance might go out the window and would it be okay to go home if it happened?’ And they were like ‘You’ll be alright, Kellie, just take it step by step, day by day.’” That she did.

Tokyo 2020

Full coverage of the Olympic Games in Japan READ MORE
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