Kellie Harrington hoping to join gold medal club after reaching Olympic final
AN Olympic gold medal is now within touching distance for Kellie Harrington after she set up a mouth-watering showdown with Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira in the Tokyo 2020 lightweight final.
Alarm clocks will be set up and down the country as the 31-year-old steps between the ropes at around 6am on Sunday morning, one last trip from the Olympic Village to the Kokugikan Arena ahead as she bids to join fellow Dubliner Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor in that elite group of Irish boxing gold medallists.
Harrington has been in imperious form on the way to securing at least a silver medal, easing beyond Italy’s Rebecca Nicoli and rangy Algerian Imane Khelif en route to yesterday’s semi-final with Sudaporn Seesondee.
There was little to choose between the pair when they met in the World Championship final in New Delhi three years ago, and so it proved again - Harrington taking a 3-2 edge in the opening two rounds before keeping her composure against the tricky southpaw in the third to book a final spot on a split decision.
“It was a close fight - I knew it was going to be a chess match,” she said.
“I fought her in 2018 in the World final, it was tricky then, it was a chess match then, and it was a chess match today. She didn’t want to give anything, I didn’t want to give anything, but eventually someone had to.
“It was patience that was key... I kept my patience and she didn’t. And that’s what won me the fight. The coaches were in the corner telling me ‘stay patient’ and giving me tactics to throw and it worked.”
As always, Harrington was quick to praise the role of her club and national team coaches, as well as the huge volume of support she has received from back home.
To return to Portland Row with a silver medal around her neck would be something special, but all eyes are fixed on gold as the final looms.
“It’s fantastic - Olympic silver medallist.
“That’s the stuff that people dream about. Many tried to get there, many don’t have what it takes to succeed because they don’t have the willpower, the determination, the focus, the dedication. I eat, sleep and breathe boxing.
“I’ve had heartbreak. I know what it is to fail and I know how hard it is to pick yourself back up after that. This is why I am who I am, and why I am here today – because I’m not afraid of failure. I know what it is. I’m Kellie Harrington. I’m myself and I make my own pathway.”
Irish Athletic Boxing Association high performance director Bernard Dunne was watching on from ringside, delighted with how Harrington managed such a tense, tactical fight.
"Relief is the wrong word. I thought we did enough to get the decision. I was amazed at how in control Kellie was and how focused she stayed,” the former world champion told RTE.
"Even under the high pressure and expectation, she remained in control. We probably got some of the expectation out of the way when she secured a medal, now it's about what colour. That is what we've been focusing on.
"Kellie stuck to the plan. She stayed in control. Kellie understands what she needs to do each day when she comes into it."
The same goes for 2019 World champion Ferreira who, like Harrington, is competing in her first Olympic Games.
The tough Brazilian proved too strong for experienced Finn and Rio 2016 Katie Taylor conqueror Mira Potkonen in the other 60 kilo semi-final, doing a dance of celebration after a unanimous 5-0 victory.
"I have been doing this dance for some time now," said Ferreira, who has been installed as slight favourite with the bookmakers heading into Sunday’s final.
"I’m confident to use it because it helps me to relax and to express how happy I am by winning."
Dunne remained inside the arena after Harrington’s win to run the rule over her potential opponent, and says a plan will be drawn together over the coming days.
"I sat and watched the Brazilian while Kellie was doing her media stuff.
“I had a quick chat with the coaches, we'll meet this evening and we’ll go through the initial battle plan and that will be worked on over the next couple of days going into Sunday.
"You need to have a full understanding of what we’re about and we have that. We know what Kellie’s strengths are and we’re going to impose that. That’s our plan. They’ll come in with the same plan too and whoever can implement that will win."