Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for June- Kellie Harrington
With 55 Irish women qualifying for the Olympic Games we’re hoping that we’ll have so many contenders for our July and August awards, the deliberations will take a month. Not that it’ll make the task a whole lot easier, but at least Nadia Power, Leona Maguire and, now, Kellie Harrington have removed themselves from that potential list of contenders by already collecting awards this year.
When sport came to a grinding halt last year, Harrington was our first sportswoman to earn a monthly award for her contributions to life outside the ring, the Dubliner’s work at St Vincent's Hospital in Fairview, as well as her involvement in a campaign to help people deal with both the physical and mental impact of the Covid crisis, saluted.
Through it all, she carried on training in her homemade gym, only one thing on her mind: qualifying for the Olympics when boxing returned. Come June of this year, it was mission accomplished when she beat reigning IBF super featherweight world champion Maiva Hamadouche in the quarter-finals of the Olympic qualifier in Paris to book her place in Tokyo.
And just to complete what proved to be a perfect week, she went on to win gold, beating Britain’s Caroline Dubois on a 4-1 split decision in the final of the 60kg division.
An outstanding performance it was too, against a highly rated opponent 11 years her junior, Harrington’s emotions spilling over when her arm was raised in victory, her success coming after a hugely difficult few years during which she had to battle repeated injuries and subsequent surgeries.
She was joined on the seven-strong Irish Olympic boxing team by Antrim’s Michaela Walsh and Roscommon’s Aoife O’Rourke, both of whom also earned their tickets to Tokyo in Paris. Harrington, though, will carry the heaviest weight of expectations having been named top seed for her division at the Olympics, Walsh seeded four in the featherweight category.
Despite her seeding, though, Harrington will have to produce the form of her life if she is to medal with the formidable world champion Beatriz Ferreira from Brazil and Finland’s Mira Potkonen, who beat Katie Taylor in Rio, among those standing in her way.
After overcoming the challenges of the last while, though, our 2018 Sportswoman of the Year will feel no achievement is beyond her, even an Olympic medal.