Tokyo 2020: Superstar Kellie lifts the country's spirits 

Tokyo 2020: Superstar Kellie lifts the country's spirits 

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington celebrates after defeating Sudaporn Seesondee of Thailand. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

The cacophony of roars, car horns, and flashing lights on Dublin’s Portland Street in the wee hours of the morning told its own story - their very own superstar is now Ireland’s superstar

Kellie Harrington has gone where only a few brave souls have ventured previously, emulating John Joe Nevin, Ken Egan, Wayne McCullough, Fred Tiedt, and John McNally, in winning a silver medal in the Olympic Games in the toughest sport of them all.

However, the journey isn't nearly over - she is only one fight away from reaching the Pantheon of the Immortals in winning gold, like the legendary Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor before her.

The first person to bring home an Olympic gold medal for Irish boxing 29 years ago, the legendary Michael Carruth, can see destiny repeating itself for his Dublin compatriot.

He told the Irish Examiner: “I secured my bronze medal on August 3, the same as Kellie. I secured the silver medal on August 5, just like Kellie. She is fighting for the gold on August 8, the same as I did in 1992 - I’ll be praying history repeats itself if she does what she is best at. She has the skillset to do it.” 

The Drinmagh boxing legend said Kellie’s life has already changed forever, but he said immortality awaits.

“Whatever happens, she has done the nation proud. She’ll be recognised everywhere now.

“I still get asked 29 years later for my picture or autograph, half of the time the kids or grandkids don’t know who I am, but the older people do,”he laughed.

“It’s very nice to have your achievements recognised, especially by your own community, and Kellie comes from a great one. This is what she has waited for all her life, and what a title to take - the same one that Katie Taylor did in 2012, the lightweight Olympic gold medal.

“There’s no longer that shadow of the great Katie Taylor to stand in, Kellie is now a great in her own right. I’ll be screaming at the television on Sunday, and hopefully she’ll be the first Olympic women’s boxing gold medal winner from Dublin, as I was men’s in 1992.”

Portland Row residents outside the Harrington Family home. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Portland Row residents outside the Harrington Family home. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

WhatsApp, social media, and work Zoom meetings were abuzz this morning with talk of Ireland’s latest sporting ambassador, after the latest hard-fought victory in Tokyo over Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee.

“Isn’t she just so likeable, doesn’t she speak with such grace and humility, and isn’t she such a warrior underneath it all?” people asked each other, only now realising this seriously brilliant athlete is the very best kind of person we all want to be.

It's like we've all known her magnificence as a sportsperson, but we're almost shocked that she is as fine and dignified a person as she is talented in the sweet science that is boxing.

Portland Row has known it forever. 

'In dreamland'

Her brother, Joel Harrington, told RTÉ: "She’s just in dreamland. This is for all the times where tears were shed, all the times she sat in the kitchen crying to me da, it’s for her coaches who put endless work into her, it’s for the women on the corner.

“There's not a lot to be happy about at the moment, now there is, now there’s a buzz on the road, now the country is lifted."

Their girl has always been known as someone who’d drop everything at a moment’s notice to help another, and sure enough, it was everyone else on Kellie’s mind immediately after the fight.

 Kellie Harrington's family, from left, father Christy, mother Yvonne, and brother Joel  after watching her Tokyo 2020 Olympics lightweight semi-final bout from home at Portland Row in Dublin. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
 Kellie Harrington's family, from left, father Christy, mother Yvonne, and brother Joel  after watching her Tokyo 2020 Olympics lightweight semi-final bout from home at Portland Row in Dublin. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

“Regardless of the colour of the medal, to have the support of the people back home, to put a smile on the nation's face,” she told RTÉ Sport.

“It’s an incredible journey. I’m just happy to be able to lift all those people. I can’t really believe it’s happening.” 

Sure enough, Kellie used her platform to highlight the contribution of those brave women who have come before her. 

One of the all-time great officials of Irish boxing, Anna Moore, was namechecked by Ireland’s newest silver medalist, as she heralded “one of the mammies of Irish Women’s Boxing”.

“She’s been there from the start, always sending her love to everybody,” Kellie said graciously.

Sunday showdown

Sunday’s final — surely going to break records for the collective number of Irish alarm clocks being set  —“is going to be a massive fight”, Kellie said.

But whatever happens, que sera sera. The energy of a nation will inspire her, she said.

“It’s going to be what it’s going to be. It will be exciting. I’m looking forward to it...As me brother says, ‘the last mile is never crowded’. That’s the way it does feel sometimes. It does feel very lonely. That’s the difference, being able to hold on, to keep it going.”

Portland Row has agreed to adhere to social distancing conditions for Sunday's final, despite wanting desperately to gather together for the great occasion, according to local independent councillor and Harrington family acquaintance Nial Ring.

The news that there will be no "big screen" showing of Kellie's gold medal fight against Brazil's Beatriz Ferreria will disappoint many local residents but they understand that the risks far outweigh the benefits, he said.

"We would love to have a big outdoor event, but we realise that this could be a Covid risk and we don't want anything to take away from Kellie's magnificent achievement.

 Kellie Harrington and Sudaporn Seesondee of Thailand during their women's lightweight semi-final bout at the Kokugikan Arena. Picture: Sportsfile
 Kellie Harrington and Sudaporn Seesondee of Thailand during their women's lightweight semi-final bout at the Kokugikan Arena. Picture: Sportsfile

"As you know Kellie herself works in a hospital and would be acutely aware of Covid risk. I know Kellie would be devastated if someone contracted Covid or was hurt in any way at an event associated with her. I spoke with residents on Portland Row who, while disappointed, understand that this is a risk not worth taking."

"It may be all right for the rich and famous to throw a bash in the Merrion Hotel without worrying about the consequences, but here in the North Inner City we look out for one another", he said, referring to the current political controversy that has engulfed the Government regarding social gatherings.

Dublin City Council has been very supportive around the area, providing banners, bunting and posters and has committed to a "safe but spectacular" homecoming for Kellie next week, Mr Ring said.

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