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Kellie Harrington admits sport is a 'lonely place' for athletes

The Olympic gold medallist said that she’s noticed that people only want “a piece of the pie” when she’s actively competing

Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington (Boxing) pictured today following her announcement as a Sports Ambassador for Dublin City Council. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Neasa Cumiskey

Kellie Harrington has admitted that sport can be a “lonely place” despite her boxing success.

The Olympic gold medallist was welcomed back to Ireland with open arms after her stint in Tokyo last summer, but said that she’s noticed that people only want “a piece of the pie” when she’s actively competing.

She said that she was able to see who really cared for her after suffering “a little niggle” that stopped her from competing in the World Championships this month.

“It’s all great when you’re winning and you’re out there competing and stuff. Everybody wants to know you; everybody wants a piece of the pie,” the Dubliner explained.

“But then when you’re out of competition or when you lose, there’s only a handful of people who will reach out to you.

“You remember those handful of people who reach out to you when you need them quicker than you remember the people who were all there going ‘congratulations’ when you’re winning.”

She said that it’s usually family, close friends, or other athletes that check in on her.

“Normally the people who do reach out are your family. There are obviously other people who reach out as well, it’s [mostly] your family and other athletes who reach out.

“I do think the people who will reach out are the people who have been there, who know what it’s like to be there because it is a lonely place. Sport is lonely. Only the strongest survive really.”

The 32-year-old said that she was devastated to miss out on the World Championships in Istanbul earlier this month, which saw Dundalk boxer Amy Broadhurst and Roscommon native Lisa O’Rourke take home the gold.

“It’s really hard when you’re sitting back and you’re watching your weight, especially with all the money that’s on the line.

“It was very, very difficult at the start but when I got to watch the team – I've been training alongside these girls for a good while now so when you get to see them and how they’re performing, not just the two World Champions but the team as a whole, it just makes me so happy to be a part of that.

“And then to watch the two girls go on and get the gold, that was just the icing on the cake. It was absolutely brilliant. It was a great day for Irish sport.

“I reached out to them straight away after they won, and I went out to the airport to meet them when they came home,” she told

As for what’s next for Kellie, she said that she’s busy recovering from her injury but plans to return to the ring this summer.

“I’m hopefully going to be back sparring by the start of July and just getting ready for the [EUBC Women’s Boxing Championship] in October. I’m just getting back slowly but surely. I’m looking after my physical and mental health.

Meanwhile, Kellie has been unveiled as a Dublin City Council Sports Ambassador as part of a new three-year deal alongside Paralympic champion Ellen Keane.

Commenting on her new role, she said: “As a proud Dubliner, I am really honoured to be an ambassador for sport for Dublin City Council.

“Sport has played an integral role in my life from a very young age, and it is great to see the wide range of facilities on offer here in the capital. I am delighted to be involved and really looking forward to helping DCC showcase the fantastic work that they do.”

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