Video: Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington touches down in Dublin to hero's welcome

Kellie Harrington at Dublin Airport, as the last of the Irish Olympic athletes return from Tokyo Picture: Damien Storan/PA Wire
By Anthony Gunning

IT will be in the weeks or even months ahead before Kellie Harrington fully takes in what she has achieved as the Olympic gold medallist touched down in Dublin to a hero's welcome.

There were just some family, friends and her partner, Mandy, there to welcome back Irish boxing's latest golden girl, but the numbers were much greater as she returned to Portland Row in the north inner-city where the local community came out in force to show their support.

Harrington has been on cloud nine ever since her victory in Sunday morning's lightweight final against Brazil's Beatriz Ferreira and admits the magnitude of her achievement is yet to hit home, but when speaking on a media call before boarding an open-top bus into the city, admitted she would likely start feeling the emotions when returning into the city.

"I think when I get into town and see some familiar faces who've known me from growing up and know my story, seeing how happy they are for me and our community...," she pondered.

"People have been saying 'ah what a great community you have' - well I've been saying that forever. I'm glad they are finally being seen as my community is absolutely smashing.

"In the good times and bad times they are always there and get behind their own. I love them and when I do see them. I think I'm going to start bawling my eyes out."

Ireland's Kellie Anne Harrington, after her women's lightweight 60-kg boxing gold medal match with Brazil's Beatriz Ferreira at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II).

It had been a whirlwind 48 hours since topping the podium in Tokyo as the 31-year-old went through the usual media and doping formalities before returning to the Olympic Village and getting ready for home.

With the buzz of victory still an overriding emotion, sleep has proven to be elusive as the adrenaline continued to flow and after touching down in Dublin yesterday, admits it was all a bit surreal to see the reaction of those who were present as despite her triumph at the greatest show on earth, Sunday's win felt like any other tournament - but it was a little big bigger than that.

"I haven't actually slept since the fight," she revealed.

"I had a couple of snoozes on the plane there because my head is ready to explode.

"I feel quite emotional now because I'm just so tired and I've never experienced this before. When I came back from (winning) the World Championships (in 2018) there were people there like my family and friends. There are just a few there today because of the Covid restrictions, but the media is there and pulling me left, right and centre, which is weird for me because I'm not used to that.

"This is the first time speaking to my ma and da because I'm just so exhausted and don't know what I feel.

"I'm thinking 'what do all these people want from me?', as it just feels like I've been at a normal competition and that's just the way I go into any competition. But it's not - it's the Olympic Games - so I can't really believe it to be honest.

Kellie Harrington (right) at Dublin Airport, as the last of the Irish Olympic athletes return from Tokyo Picture: Damien Storan/PA Wire

"I think for me to fully realise what's going on, it will take a couple of weeks to not be around a team for me to realise what has happened and what I have achieved."

Harrington has won the hearts of the Irish public and not just for her exploits in the ring, but persona and humble nature in post-fight interviews.

There is no doubt the Dubliner will be in huge demand in the coming months, but there is no question she will remain true to her roots and insists it will be the same Kellie now as before.

"I'm not a fame hogger - that's not me," she insists.

"What is fame? I'm about humility. You can be famous and bit of a you-know-what, but my people in my community mean the most to me.

"People have reached out but I haven't responded or posted anything on social media as I don't know where to start with any of it.

"It's been overwhelming and people have said that I spoke well in the media, but I'm just being me and speaking how I usually speak to anybody. That's just me as a person and what you see is what you get."

The discipline that has taken Harrington to the pinnacle of the sport has been constant for quite some time, so for now the Olympic champion is looking forward to shutting the door and enjoying the simple things in life.

There will be no rash decisions in terms of remaining within the amateur set-up or switching to the paid ranks in an effort to emulate Katie Taylor who followed Olympic and World amateur success with professional glory.

"As boring as it sounds, I just want to put my feet up on my chair, sit down on my sofa, watch telly or listen to the radio, drink tea or have a coffee, scones and cake - stuff I can actually eat now," she continued.

"Not having to get up every morning and check my weight every morning. I make the weight quite easily but that's because I'm so strict with my diet, so not having to do that will be great and I think that's the thing most boxers look forward to."

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