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kellie's heroes Kellie Harrington keeping emotions in check and her eyes firmly on the big prize

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Kellie Harrington awaits the decision after her lightweight quarter-final bout

Kellie Harrington awaits the decision after her lightweight quarter-final bout

Kellie Harrington awaits the decision after her lightweight quarter-final bout

Kellie Harrington’s ability to make everyone chuckle in the mixed zone will be one of the enduring memories of the Tokyo Olympics. It scarcely matters what colour of medal she brings back to Portland Row. She’s already a national treasure.

From borrowing the ‘Hakuna Matata’ line from the Lion King movie to her description of the tactics of her Algerian opponent Imane Khelif (‘She was throwing them like from Easter in her arm to the length of Christmas’), she made our job easy.

Mostly though, she fought back the tears after he quarter-final win which guaranteed her an Olympic medal.

“I am just a very emotional person. I know I give off the impression that I’m a hard B. But I am very emotional deep down inside. Times like this make me cry.”

She reckoned the patients in St Vincent’s Hospital where she works at the weekend would have been asleep when she became the 70th Irish boxer to secure an Olympic medal.

“But they’ll find out when they wake up and they’re happy.”

And as for keeping sane between fights well, that’s a battle already lost, she suggested.

“I mean, I can’t do anything to stay sane because I’m definitely not sane. Anybody in this sport, I think, needs to be a little bit insane.

She has excused herself from social media for the duration of the Games.

“Sometimes some people might say something – like send you a message like ‘good luck – you’re up against it, this girl’s arms are the length of Christmas.

“And it makes you think. I’d rather just stay off it. It’s nice to have something to do when you’re sitting in the airport on the way home.”

And she freely admitted she is counting the days until she gets home – together with her colleagues she left Ireland on July 1st. It has been a long stint away from her partner and family. But she is mindful of how supportive everybody in Ireland has been.

“I’m very happy for the coaches here who have put the work in, my club coach Noel Burke at home, happy for my friends and family in Ireland. Just happy that I can give people back home something to celebrate.”

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She acknowledged her quarter-final against Imane Khelif wasn’t a spectacular fight. But as soon as the Algerian started sticking out her tongue at her she knew she had won the psychological battle.

“She was a very, very awkward opponent. She was sticking out her tongue out at me in there. I enjoyed it because when somebody starts doing that, you know you have got into their head. You know that they are going to start throwing shots and missing and she did that.”

So far in the tournament Harrington has been very measured in her performances and this is a deliberate approach.

“It (the fight) wasn’t anything to write home about. I knew what I had to do to win. That’s a champion’s mindset, where they do what they have to do to be able to get the rounds and scrape by.

I am just happy to get the job done. I thought she had a lot more to offer but I saw her shots coming and I was able to back out of way.

“So, I will just recover now and get ready for my next opponent. And again, like I said what will be will be. This is just a fantastic journey, it is not my destination.”

One suspects that performance-wise, we haven’t seen the best of Katie Harrington yet at these Games.

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