Boxing

Kellie Harrington On Making Up For Lost Time, Olympic Dreams, And Working To "Feel Normal"

Kellie Harrington On Making Up For Lost Time, Olympic Dreams, And Working To "Feel Normal"

Recently at the Sport Ireland Institute in Abbottstown, a male intern asked for a couple of sparring sessions with a member of the high-performance unit before he finished up. He had only one stipulation: so long as it's not Kellie.

Ever since winning World Championship silver fourteen months ago, Kellie Harrington is becoming slightly more used to being singled out from a crowd, although despite her achievements, she says she hasn't changed at all.

Honestly, like, life hasn't really changed. I'm still the same person. I still train the same, I still have the same attitude. Nothing has changed, except that I'm on a sports grant now, so I don't have to work as much now, which is fantastic, so I can train full time.

There had been a delay in earning that funding. She reached the World Championship final in May, 2016, but didn't earn her funding grant until earlier this year. Now that she is fully funded, Harrington is dedicating herself to training on an (almost) full-time basis: she still keeps up her job in St Vincent's Hospital.

I still work there every second weekend, and I love my job there. Look, if I won the lotto tomorrow, I would still work there. I work in household, so my job is giving dinner to the patients.

But when I go in there I feel like I'm going in to visit people, and to see all my old pals. I enjoy it, and they enjoy the craic. So they'll ask me questions about boxing, and mess with me 'Come on Marvin Hagler, I'll take you on'. If I didn't have that, I wouldn't have anything. That keeps me grounded.

It actually makes me feel normal by going to work. No athlete is a normal person. We don't do what normal people do. We don't get up every Monday to Friday and go to work. I don't do what a normal person does; every athlete is goal-driven.

Nor is Harrington any normal athlete. She became just the fifth senior boxer from Ireland to fight in the final of a World Championships, and in February won her seventh national title.

She missed out on a spot at the Olympic games in Rio, however, not through merit but because her weight class was not included.

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but was deprived a spot at the Olympic games in Rio as her weight class (64kg) was not included. At the most recent games, there were just three weight divisions for female boxers: Flyweight, Lightweight, and Middleweight. Harrington criticised this as "sexist" at the time, and she stands her by opinion when asked if she was bitter to miss out on Rio:

I wouldn't say bitter. I am still disappointed that every weight is not in there; that we are not equal to men. Bitter? No. Begrudging to those who did go? No, I was delighted for everyone that was there. But I would like to see them taking in more weights for women. We deserve it.

We do everything that the males do, and why shouldn't we be put in? Why can't they do it?

The AIBA have announced they will add another two weight classes to the female division for Tokyo, but Harrington is targeting one of the existing divisions: Lightweight. From an Irish point of view, the division has been vacated by Katie Taylor's decision to go professional, and that Olympic spot is Harrington's overarching view. But it is not the immediate ambition, as she is "the type of person who would rather take small steps; crawl before you can walk. If you are looking too far ahead, you're missing out on all of these other little opportunities".

The next goal is the Women's European Union Cup next month, and a chance to somewhat atone for her shock exit at the last 16 stage at the European Championships in Sofia last November.

Performance at those will augur well for Harrington's hopes to carry on Taylor's Olympic legacy at Lightweight. She is naturally following her pro career with interest, as she does with all of her former Irish colleagues.

Just because Katie's a female doesn't mean she's going to be every female's role model. I have others, the likes of Michael Conlan. He is a great inspiration to me. What he did at the Olympics...the whole world fell at his feet.

At 27, Kellie Harrington is entitled to feel that she has much of the world at hers, too.

See Also: "I'm Due A Good Break" -Sean McComb On Losing Funding, Battling Back, And Stopping Crime

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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