Kellie Harrington will box for an Olympic gold medal on Sunday after a split decision win over Sudaporn Seesondee in this morning’s lightweight semi-final.
The Dubliner, who secured her podium spot with victory in the last eight, today made it a hat trick of wins at these games, thwarting her Thai opponent on three scores of 29-28 and two of 28-29.
She now bids to become Ireland’s third ever Olympic boxing champion when she takes on reigning world titlist Beatriz Ferreira in the 60kg decider.
Seesondee, who succumbed to Harrington in 2018’s world final, was once again unable to crack the code three years on, falling short by the tightest of margins.
Proceedings began with a fair degree of posturing from the pair, the high stakes perhaps stilting the flow in the early going as the referee warned both for a perceived lack of engagement.
It was some sixty seconds in before Harrington caught the eye of the judges, finding a home for a series of lead left hands, the bulk of her work from the southpaw stance as Seesondee fired her own ripostes up the middle.
Narrowly ahead after round one, the Portland Row native was largely unable to follow up on that initiative through the second, struggling at times to match her feints with meaningful output as Seesondee continued to spring forward with combinations.
With all to play for heading into the deciding stanza, it was Harrington who started the faster, bouncing back to life with astute one-twos and lead right hands, this time from the orthodox posture.
Confidence palpably restored, her weaving upper body movement was by now back on show, Harrington presenting a perpetually moving target for her Thai counterpart.
Seesondee was not without success, however, unfurling single scoring shots upstairs and down as she sought to press the pace. It was Harrington who owned the final frames, though, timing her foe’s forays with adept check hooks from either stance as she booked her place in this weekend’s showpiece.
"It was a chess match in 2018, and it was a chess match today", Harrington told RTÉ post-fight.
"She's a fantastic operator, she has a really strong left hand, so I was trying not to get hit with that. Trying to tease her on, like my coaches said, and then counter. I felt a little more comfortable towards the end, standing instead of running. It was fantastic, just brilliant.
"I haven't a clue what did the damage [on the scorecards], I can't remember what went on in there to be honest! Something worked to win the fight anyway.
"It's going to be a massive final, and it'll be what it'll be. It'll be exciting, so I'm looking forward to it. We'll speak to the coaches about it, we'll speak to Noel Burke [club coach] about it, and we'll come up with a plan all together.
"As my brother says, the last mile is never crowded and that’s the way it does feel sometimes. It does feel very lonely but I suppose that's the difference, to be able to hold on in there and keep it going."
Come what may, Harrington’s superlative exertions have already made a massive contribution to the Ireland medal count.
By building on last week’s rowing success in Tokyo, she and compatriot Aidan Walsh have also recorded the country’s first in-ring honours since 2012.
A la Katie Taylor at those feted London games, and Michael Carruth two decades prior, Harrington will now seek to enter Irish boxing’s golden circle.
Sunday’s final is slated for a 6.00am start Irish time.
Her coach John Conlan added: "She's had a great journey. Everything that's happened in her life has brought her to this point and she deserves it."