Thai fighter Seesondee next as Kellie Harrington progresses to Olympic semi-final

Kellie Anne Harrington (right) of Ireland and Imane Khelif of Algeria during the Women's Light (57-60kg) Quarterfinal 1 at the Kokugikan Arena on the eleventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Andy Watters

KELLIE Harrington said she wasn't at her best yesterday but her gritty performance was good enough to guarantee her at least a bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games against Imane Khelif of Algeria in the Women's Lightweight quarter-final.

The Dubliner now faces Sudaporn Seesondee in tomorrow's semi-finals and she'll go into that contest with confidence after beating the Thailand boxer at the World Championships two years ago.

Boxing behind a long jab, Khelif settled quickly yesterday and had the edge in the opening minute of the first round but Harrington quickly got the measure of her though and won the round 4-1 on the judges' scorecards.

A controlled and composed performance followed from Harrington and she put the pressure back on Khelif throughout the second and third rounds to win by unanimous decision and secure her spot in the semis.

“She was a very game opponent, very, very rangy,” said Harrington.

“I was trying to slip inside, and found it hard enough to do so but I could hear John shouting: ‘Move your head, move your head' and Zaur shouting: ‘Back hand, left hook, back hand!'

“That was working for me - it was the simple things that were working for me. It wasn't a spectacular fight, but this is what champions do, champions just do enough when they need to win and that's exactly what happened there today.

“I did enough to get the bout, I wasn't going inside the pocket to be caught or anything. It was good, I enjoyed it.

“I don't feel pressure about medals or anything like that because at the end of the day, I'm just here to perform and give my best.

“That wasn't my best but again, it's very hard when you're up against a tricky opponent to get the best out of you. So yeah, medals are medals.

“If I hadn't gotten one I'd have been very upset, but it wouldn't have been the end of the day, because a medal doesn't define me as a person.

“I am more than just a boxer. I am a person and a human being and I have a loving family and a great community and a fantastic job.”

Bernard Dunne, Team Ireland Leader for Boxing, added: “It was a very controlled performance. It was a very awkward opponent, but Kellie figured her out quite quickly.

“The tactical plan going in, that was worked on over the last couple of days, worked to a tee. It's great to get past the next step, great to move forward. I'm delighted for Kellie, it's a well-earned medal.

Looking ahead to Harrington's semi-final against Seesondee on Thursday former Harry Hawkins-trained WBA super-bantamweight champion Dunne added: “We faced this opponent two years ago and Kellie came out on top in that.

“I know that's a different contest, but we'll review the opponent this evening and tomorrow and we'll have a plan in place.

“We've only been looking at the Algerian opponent over the last couple of days because we're taking it step-by-step - but we're on to step number three now for Kellie.

“Our team has performed exceptionally well - all seven athletes. You can see the preparation that has been done, the work that the support team has done, and the coaches.

“It's been a hugely challenging tournament but the performances have been top notch. There's a couple of close decisions that we didn't get but you're going home with two medals, when seven qualified. There's huge potential within this squad still and it's great to be a part of it.”

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