Patient Kellie Harrington on verge of gold after split decision victory at Olympics

She becomes only the second female Irish boxer to reach an Olympic final

"The last mile is never crowded," said Kellie Harrington after she became only the second female Irish boxer after Katie Taylor in 2012, to reach an Olympic final.

Harrington won her silver medal bout in the Kokugikan Arena in a split decision over Thailand's Sudaporn Seesondee and will meet Brazilian Beatriz Ferreira in Sunday's Olympic final.

The 31-year-old stuck to a patient and disciplined routine to just edge out Seesondee in a split decision. Each of the three rounds were close and the judges were divided on all three.

Harrington won the first round after the referee intervened twice to tell the two boxers to engage, Seesondee, a southpaw wanted Harrington to come on to her. But Harrington wisely stayed back and took the fight to her opponent from a distance.


The Irish fighter nicked the first round 3-2 and continued in the same painstaking vein of picking off points here and there and staying out of trouble.

It took incredible discipline and confidence from Harrington to stay with that plan but again it worked for her in the second round with three of the five judges again seeing it in her favour.

“I don’t really know. I’m a little bit lost for words. I’m speechless,” said Harrington afterwards.

“To be very honest with you I fought Sudaporn in 2018. It was a chess match then, it was a chess match today. She’s very, very tricky. I wasn’t getting inside to get a bang because she hits hard with her back hand. She was throwing shots to the body but they were literally skimming my shirt.

“To me they weren’t counting because it was just like because a judge will only score something that’s a good shot and I felt that my shots were cleaner and so I felt like I won each round. Not by a long shot but again, like I said, you need to do what you need to do and I won each round - just by winning each round.”

In the third round Seesondee knew she was trailing and brought up the tempo. But her lunges forward did not always connect and Harrington kept her shape, jabbing with the left and trying to land with her backhand around her opponent’s defence.

No doubt it was a close semi-final and at the end of the third it was Seesondee who threw her arms in the air. But after a tense minute of waiting it was the hand of Ireland’s 2018 world champion, Harrington, raised in the red corner as a split decision winner, 29-28, 29-28, 28-29, 29-28, 28-29.

“I knew I was up after the first two rounds,” she said. “They were close rounds but I knew I was up. I didn’t want to rush in and do anything stupid. I felt like she thought she was up because she didn’t come as much as I thought she was going to come and then in the third round I felt comfortable enough just moving my head.

“I felt like she backed off a little bit. That’s probably because I was catching her when she was coming in with hooks.”

Harrington brushed off the referee’s intervention in the first round, when he instructed both boxers to engage.

“Patience is key and we knew going out there that we needed to be patient and not to be stepping in getting caught with silly shots,” she said. “Like I said she’s a strong, strong opponent and a very good woman. I was taking my time, being aggressive when I needed to and being calm and collected also.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times