Busy Harrington keeping her eyes on the main prize on road to Paris 2024

World Championships a step on the road to the defence of her Olympic crown in Paris

Marriage, World Championships, European Championships, Olympic Games, Kellie Harrington’s life has fallen into priorities. She knocked the first one off the list last week.

Yes, thanks it all went very well. Mandy, her partner, loved it, their three dogs “part of the family” behaved excellently and the rest is none of our business.

“The day was bloody amazing,” she says. “We had the best day ever. We got great weather and we had close friends and family there. Apart from that, I’m keeping it private.”

Most other things boxing-wise are on the table as she looks towards the next two years with the defence of her Olympic lightweight gold medal in 2024 the other priority, after which she says she will retire at 34.


The honeymoon period since the Olympics is over although on a personal level with Mandy it has yet to begin. Flat to the mat, in the juggle of work-life balance, that has been long-fingered.

This summer’s world event is in Istanbul. While her eyes are on it, they are also fixed on next year and the Olympic qualification process, bizarrely Byzantine, and then the Olympic Games in Paris.

I know I am the woman to beat. I know that the target is on my back. But I do just see myself as a contender

“I want to be really hungry for next year for the start of the Olympic qualification process. I don’t know what way that’s panning out at all. I am hearing different kinds of things and I can’t get my head around it to be honest.

“I am not going to be somebody completely different from what I have been already but if I can be one- or two per cent better than I was I will be happy.”

To that end, this year’s World Championships are part of the work in progress. Harrington is not entirely hitching her wagon to those, at least not publicly, but sees them as part of the improvement process that will see her try to peak for Olympic qualification.

“I know I am the woman to beat. I know that the target is on my back. But I do just see myself as a contender. I know that sounds a little crazy. But it’s how I do see myself, as a contender.

Just preparation

“These World Championships, they are massive. But it is preparation for next year when the qualification system starts. I’m not really sure how that’s happening but this is just preparation. What will happen will happen, what will be will be.”

With Harrington there always has been that karma vibe, the notion that things will happen as they may and if the cards fall a certain way then she’ll work it out and deal with it.

I am not afraid of losing. That is not saying I want to lose because I really don't want to lose. But I am not afraid of it

But behind the scenes she has been magnificently successful in working to have fate conspire with her own ambitions and desired outcomes.

Casual about the unexpected happening? Not really. Easygoing about getting beaten. Not at all.

“I enjoy success. But I just want a purpose, that’s really it,” she says. “I am not afraid of losing. That is not saying I want to lose because I really don’t want to lose. But I am not afraid of it.”

An absurd aspect of the preparation is all of the elite boxers including Harrington have been doing it without the direction of high performance director Bernard Dunne. He was hugely undermined prior to Tokyo by an unsigned document purporting to be a survey that Sport Ireland said “had no merit”.

Two medals in the shadow of a Covid-19-hit preparation and delayed Olympic Games was an exceptional outcome. But Dunne has not been back to high performance since. Harrington is politely withering.

“Look, nothing ever runs smoothly in Irish boxing, does it?” she says.

“But what I will say is, we miss Bernard, we miss him terribly. I miss him as a friend and as someone who I can always look to for sound advice, and in those moments when I’m feeling doubtful about myself, Bernard is always there to steer you on the right path.’

The ring

“He is a director. Yeah, we do miss him. We do need someone there. We’re missing him.”

Three weeks ago she sang Grace on the Late Late Show. Typically Harringtonesque, she made a connection with stepping into the ring. The nerves and the anxiety of singing in public are the same as facing other demons.

“Some people, if you were to put them on karaoke, they say, “I’m not getting up, I’m not getting up! Oh Jesus”, and they’d be absolutely in a bundle in the corner and you’re trying to drag them up,” she says.

“Sometimes you could feel like that when you’re getting into the ring “Oh Jesus Christ, here we go again!" I know it’s really crazy. But I think if our can get up and sing in front of a room, and even a room of people that you know, then you’re able to do anything really, aren’t you?

So far she has.

*Olympic lightweight gold medal winner Kellie Harrington is a SPAR Community Road Trip ambassador.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times