'Sh*t happens - I could have been out there and had a bad day': Harrington not worried by missed Worlds

SPAR ambassador and Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington pictured launching the €60,000 SPAR 60th Community Fund. For more information and to be in with a chance to win, visit Picture by Naoise Culhane
SPAR ambassador and Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington pictured launching the €60,000 SPAR 60th Community Fund. For more information and to be in with a chance to win, visit Picture by Naoise Culhane

THERE are few sports that labour what-might-have-beens more than boxing, but Kellie Harrington wasn’t about to go there yesterday morning.

Less than 24 hours before, on Sunday evening, medals and some fat cheques were handed out at the closing ceremony of the International Boxing Association (IBA) World Championships in New Delhi.

The woman Harrington defeated in the Olympic final, Beatriz Ferreira, took lightweight gold and $100,000 home to Brazil. Four boxers from host nation India – now under the guidance of former Irish High Performance director Bernard Dunne – also topped the podium.

Harrington won World gold back in 2018 before prize money was part of the package, with injury ruling her out of last year’s Worlds in Turkey when Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke significantly boosted both reputation and bank balance.

This time around the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), alongside several other nations including the USA and GB, opted to boycott the championships in protest against alleged corruption in the IBA, with growing fears for the future of the sport’s Olympic involvement.

The Dubliner would have been among the favourites at 60kg had things been different, but she insists missing out hadn’t left a sour taste as she focuses solely on June’s European Games, which serves as an Olympic qualifier for Paris 2024.

“For me, because I've been there and done it, to miss this one, I didn't feel that hard done by, even though there was a lot of money on the line,” said Harrington, speaking at an event to launch the €60,000 SPAR 60th Community Fund.

“It would be nice to have that in the back pocket of course, but for other people who could have had the chance, I did feel sorry for them. I suppose there was a reasoning behind why it all happened and hopefully it's for the better really.

“Like, there is no assurance that I been at that tournament I would have got any money at all. Sh*t happens - I could have been out there and had a bad day. That is life.

“What you tend to see, we’ve seen it before with Katie and other people in the past, people automatically put a gold medal around their neck. And that is not the way it is and when you are on the inside, you know that is not the way it is.

“I tend to be realistic with myself and I understand that there is people coming up behind me in other countries and in this country and I know I have a target on my back and I am there to be beat and people are hungry.

“It was never an assurance that I was going to get 100 grand, 50 grand or 25 grand.”

For old foe Ferreira, however, it was a welcome boost as she rides the twin horses of amateur and professional boxing.

The Brazilian powerhouse won her first two pro contests at the end of last year and, since pro boxers have been allowed to compete at the Olympics since 2016, looks likely to be in Paris.

It is a rule that doesn’t sit well with Harrington.

“Personally, and I will always say it, I don’t think professional boxers should be allowed to box in the amateur ring - and I will stand by that forever.

“It is one or the other and that is just the way I look at it. I just think it shouldn’t be the case.”

There is no guarantee that Harrington will be in Paris either, and that is the challenge motivating her.

At 33, she acknowledges she will be “out the gate” at the end of this Olympic cycle, but the determination to get there is every bit as strong as it was last time - and June’s European Games in Poland represents an opportunity to seal her spot a year out.

“It’s 8-10 weeks away, I am nowhere near my best, and I’d be very worried if I was because we still have a long way to go. I don’t need to be there yet, it’s a slow process but you’re trying to tick all the boxes and trying to leave no stone unturned.

“I haven’t even thought about Paris as the Olympics or anything, I’m not thinking I’m going to get to the Olympics and do this, that and the other. I’m just thinking qualifiers because you can’t get to an Olympics without qualifying, not in boxing anyway, and to get through the qualifiers is hard.

“The first time I adopted an approach pretty much like this - if I get there, I get there and if I don’t, I don’t. I am Kellie Harrington, the person, who has a job and likes living life. And boxing is what comes after that.

“I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket with boxing and that is the way I approached it the first time. I'm not putting pressure on myself. The next bit will be a bonus for me and that's not to say I'm taking things ham and cheesy, because I'm not.

“I am putting the work in, but not being too hard on myself and over-thinking it all the time. Because when you put all that pressure on yourself, a good athlete is a happy athlete when you are free in your mind and free in your body and you can do all kind of things.”