Olympics can wait as Kellie Harrington looks at big picture on the front line

FBD brand ambassador and 2018 World Championship gold medallist Kellie Harrington. FBD Insurance has been a principal partner to Team Ireland since September 2018. As part of its sponsorship, FBD is supporting Team Ireland’s Olympic hopefuls to enable them to focus on personal bests and breakthrough performances at Tokyo 2021. Picture by INPHO
Neil Loughran

THE question about whether or not the Olympic Games goes ahead next summer breezes beyond Kellie Harrington. Some athletes are struggling to sleep at night, such is the uncertainty, but not the Dublin woman.

Turning 31 in December, this could be her last shot at making it to the greatest show on earth. Already it has been put back 12 months, just as Harrington was preparing to mount her assault on a stacked lightweight division at the London qualifier back in March.

Once it was gone, though, it was gone. Ever since, she has been straight back to the day job as a cleaner at St Vincent’s Hospital in her home city. Not for a second did she think of doing anything else once her Olympic dream was parked, Harrington’s only concerns then for the “family” on the ward where she works.

“I suppose with everything it is stressful in that you're worrying 'what if it gets in here? What will happen if it gets in here?' Because we've a lot of older patients in the hospital and you do worry about them. To me, they're like family. The ward I work on, if anything happened to them I'd be absolutely devastated.

"That's the real worrying thing, of carrying it, because I know sometimes if you get it you can't tell, you don't have symptoms at all and you'd be thinking 'what if I got it and brought it in here?' That's the worrying thing that you'd be thinking about.

“Everybody is just getting on with it. Everyone is looking out for each other, we're keeping our social distance. Do you know what? It's good to be work when all of this is going on.

“I don't really have too much time to be thinking about it because I'm working it and I'm training so I'm not able to think too much about what is going on in the sporting world or not going on because I'm busy so it's nice.

“It's a nice welcome break from training.”

At the minute, Harrington and her Irish team-mates are awaiting the green light for a return to the Sport Ireland Campus at Abbotstown, when attention will swiftly turn to the resumption of that European Olympic qualifier, presumably around March 2021.

She aims to be there, but is only too aware that the future is unsure. A few weeks ago the St Mary’s boxer heard Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Council, concede that the next Games would have to be cancelled if they couldn’t go ahead next summer.

His comments rolled right off her.

“Because the Olympics aren't on I'm no longer looking at them any more; I'm back to looking at the qualifiers and whatever comes before that. I'm back to the crawling stage now.

“I was so close to the Olympics but they're gone now, another year. It's out of my head again. I don't really get fogged up on that. As I heard that [Bach’s comments] it was gone out of my head two seconds later. There's no point in worrying about that.

“Once I qualify then I'll worry about the Olympics. If you don't qualify it's never going to happen.”

An injury to her right hand kept Harrington out for much of 2019, only returning to the ring at a tournament in Bulgaria in January.

With another six months out of competitive action looking likely, she plans to use this time to perfect her skills and ensure she enters 2021 the best she has ever been.

“I think I'll be different,” said the 2018 World lightweight champion.

“I don't know whether I will but I think I will be a little bit more aggressive… not a whole lot but maybe a little but more aggressive. You're probably thinking I've been out of the ring a very long time and I've only had four fights.

“The way I'm looking at that is, yeah, I've had only four fights but none of the other girls are fighting now either so we're all in the same boat.

“I'm really focussing on the fitness, my punching power and my technique. I feel like I have improved with that but I won't really know until I get in and I'm able to spar and be able to tell. It's kind of like a waiting game now.”

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