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golden girl Kellie Harrington missing Bernard Dunne’s ‘sound advice’ as she plots testing route to Paris

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Kellie Harrington: "If you don’t get it right in 2023 there is no 2024. This year is preparation. It is getting back up on the saddle and taking off again.” Photo: Sportsfile

Kellie Harrington: "If you don’t get it right in 2023 there is no 2024. This year is preparation. It is getting back up on the saddle and taking off again.” Photo: Sportsfile

Kellie Harrington: "If you don’t get it right in 2023 there is no 2024. This year is preparation. It is getting back up on the saddle and taking off again.” Photo: Sportsfile

Olympic boxing champion Kellie Harrington admits she misses High Performance director Bernard Dunne who has been on leave since returning from the Tokyo Games last August.

Look, nothing ever runs smoothly in Irish boxing, does it? I’d be the first to put my hand up and say that,” she said.

“But what I will say is, we miss Bernard, we miss him terribly. I miss him as a friend and as someone who I can always look to for sound advice, and in those moments when I’m feeling doubtful about myself, Bernard is always there to steer you on the right path.”

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association confirmed last night that Dunne remains the HPU (High Performance Unit) director.

“He is on continuing leave. The IABA does not comment on individual contractual or staffing matters,” concluded the short statement.

Harrington has put her honeymoon on hold as she prepares for next month’s World Championships in Istanbul.

For the first time ever at the championships there is prize money on offer with the gold medallists securing a winner’s cheque for €92,087 ($100,000).

“I do think it will make people more determined but for me I just think it’s an amateur sport. It’s nice for some people to get money out of it, but it really doesn’t bother me.”

She returned to the ring for the first time since the Olympics when she won the gold medal at the Strandja Cup tournament in Sofia in February.

There she noticed opponents were noticably more aggressive. She anticipates more of the same in Istanbul where there will be no seedings.

“They know I do use my feet and basically they are trying to stop me from using them. I am aware of that. So, I just have to get better at using my feet I suppose.”

Asked whether she was doing any specific training to counter their tactics she said: “I am just trying to keep my shape a little bit more. Sometimes I get a little bit reckless.

“So I am trying to get back on my toes a bit more. If I can be one or two per cent better than I am I will be happy with that.

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“I seem to be coming across a lot of aggressive fighters. I am not worried about who I meet. I have always been the type of person who will just take it day by day and what will be will be.

“I am not afraid of losing. But that is not saying I want to lose because I really don’t. But I am not afraid of it because I know what loss is like. I think it is in a loss that you are able to grow.

“If I am going to lose any fights I hope it is before the (Olympic) qualifiers next year.”

Last week the International Olympic Committee confirmed their executive board had approved the qualification system for the Paris Games which was drawn up by the International Boxing Association though the IBA remains suspended by the IOC. It has since emerged the IOC are seeking further clarification on the plan.

It is proposed that at the 2024 World Championships the finalists in two different weights will qualify to box in one Olympic category in Paris.

In Harrington’s case, the featherweight (57kg) finalists and the lightweight finalists (60kg) would qualify for the Paris Games but all four would fight in the 60kg class.

In the event of two boxers from the same country qualifying in the same Olympic weight division the national federation would have to nominate one of them for the Paris Games.

“It’s bizarre. I genuinely can’t figure it out. I have to be focused on boxing and boxing alone next year.

“If you don’t get it right in 2023 there is no 2024. This year is preparation. It is getting back up on the saddle and taking off again.”

She hasn’t made her mind up yet whether she will continue to work part-time.

“I’m finding it really hard to get time off work at the moment, to be honest with you. So I’ll have to sort that out this year.

“I’m not a person who is hungry for success, I just want to get up out of bed in the morning and have a purpose and an aim.

“Not everybody is going to win an Olympic medal or make it to the Olympics, and that’s fine. I’m happy enough competing because that gives me a purpose and some structure in my life.”

Kellie Harrington was speaking at the launch of the Spar Community Road Trip initiative. Full details available at www.spar.ie

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