The Best Of Times: Mary Hannigan’s offbeat look back at Katie Taylor’s Olympic glory

Con Houlihan’s funeral, Morrissey gets as dark as ever, glistening wet otters and more

Katie Taylor with her gold medal after the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Katie Taylor with her gold medal after the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

There was a time when no major – or minor – sporting occasion was complete until we got to read what the maestro Con Houlihan had to say about it. There was a poignancy, then, to his final Sunday World column in which he wished Katie Taylor well in her London 2012 journey, Houlihan dying, at the age of 86, five days before she won gold.

His funeral took place on the day of Taylor’s semi-final, one of the gems shared in the eulogies the time Houlihan was asked how his “friend-girl” Harriet Duffin, a devotee of the Dublin Gaelic football team, was coping with their defeat by Kerry in an All-Ireland final. “House private, no flowers,” Houlihan replied.

Writing about his funeral in the Examiner at the time, Liam Mackey recalled “a couple of Con’s closest friends slipping out of their seats and heading for the door. When one of them caught my quizzical eye, he replied with a little boxing mime.”

They were, then, slipping out to watch Taylor. “Indeed,” wrote Mackey, “as Eoghan Corry put it on the Vincent Browne Show later that night: “If Con had been at his own funeral, he’d have left too”.”

You can be sure.

Quote of the moment

“Is it me?”

Katie Taylor’s question to her corner at the end of her gold medal fight. It was indeed her.

By the numbers

1,100,000: That’s how many people tuned in to RTÉ television to watch Katie Taylor win gold – what the rest of the population were up to, we’ll never know.

What They Said

“I have come here feeling the fittest, the leanest, the healthiest, smartest boxer I could be, but there was nothing else I could do. I could’ve thrown the kitchen sink at her or maybe drive a bus into her. It wouldn’t have worked – she’s the best. I hope she goes on to win it.” – A highly gracious Natasha Jones, the British fighter who lost an epic quarter-final to Taylor.

“Can anyone defeat Britain’s Katie Taylor, the most proficient attacking boxer in the world?” – The Daily Telegraph … come Rio 2016 they were probably calling her Irish.

“I nearly had a stroke.” – Then Sports Minister Michael Ring on the wait to hear the judges’ verdict at the end of the final. He wasn’t alone.

“History told us of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, then of Fanny Blankers-Koen. Legends grew around Dawn Fraser and Olga Connolly; also Joan Benoit and now Kim Rhode. They are Olympic women. Hear them roar...... the name Katie Taylor may be on the list.” – The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Dwyre – and that was only after she won her quarter-final.

“All of IRELAND Raise A Pint for Katie Taylor’s Gold Medal Russian beatdown!!” – Who was Taylor’s biggest non-Irish Twitter fan? None other than Samuel L Jackson.

“Ireland is in a financial crisis because they’ve spent all their money on Taylor’s referees.” – How well did Sofya Ochigava take her defeat by Taylor in the final? Eh.....

The ‘Heavens Knows I’m Miserable Now’ award for the least-enthusiastic-about-the-London-Olympics Englishman

“I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism? The ‘dazzling royals’ have, quite naturally, hi-jacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press. It is lethal to witness.… the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain, the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham is, believe me, a fate worse than life. WAKE UP WAKE UP.”– Morrissey, of course.

Aussies hit hard by poor performance

It’s not as if Australia left London empty-handed, they did, after all, manage to win 35 medals, eight of them gold, making them the eighth most successful nation at the Games. The problem is, that was a drop of three places from Beijing 2008, when they won 46 medals, 14 of them gold. Their media, then, was less than impressed with the overall performance, the post-mortem not pretty.

One of their many disappointments was Caroline Buchanan’s fifth-place finish in the BMX final when she had entered the competition as the top ranked BMX rider in the world. Was she able to put it all in perspective, in a ‘it’s the competing that matters’ kind of way?

“It seriously feels like a nightmare. My house has burnt down, my brother has broken his neck, I’ve had setbacks in my life before – but nothing compares to this.”

Um, no.

Best response from a 2012 Olympic gold medal winner to a question from the media

We’ll go with the fella who won the 100m (not to mention the 200m).

Reporter: “What was your race strategy?”

Usain Bolt: “I just ran, pretty much.”

As he put it himself, “I am now a living legend.” For that response alone, he qualified for the status.

Where Is He Now?

The fella who very memorably noted that “there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto .... they are glistening like wet otters”.

In No 10 Downing Street, of course.

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