With chants of ‘Kellie! Kellie! Kellie!’ ringing out across the tightknit community of Portland Row, in Dublin’s north inner city, Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington returned home to rapturous applause.
Kellie took the gold medal in the lightweight division at the Tokyo games and touched down last Tuesday alongside bronze medallist Aidan Walsh and the remaining Olympians.
Kellie travelled through Dublin’s north inner city on an open-top bus along with other members of Team Ireland. The bus then made its way to Portland Row, where she grew up.
And the boxer burst into tears as she arrived at Portland Row. “People are saying, ‘You’ve a great community’,” she said. “Or, ‘Your community are fantastic’, sure I’m saying that forever.
“I’ve been saying that for years, they mustn’t have been listening to me when I was saying it. I’m glad now that they’re finally getting to see, my community is absolutely smashing.
Hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets to show their pride in her and to celebrate her success.
Kellie’s father, Christy, described the atmosphere on Portland Row “as like Christmas Eve”.
“It’s like we are all waiting for Santa Claus! They’re actually tracking Kellie’s plane home. So, it’s like Christmas Eve here for all of us. It really is powerful,” he said.
Among those to greet the Olympic champion was Kellie’s partner Mandy Loughlin, who was too nervous to watch any of the boxer’s fights in Tokyo live.
Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1 earlier in the week, Mandy said: “I did [see the fights] five minutes later but not live. I just can’t do it. I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been a boxer myself… I don’t know. I just don’t know. I just can’t do it. Usually I take the dogs out for a walk [during the fights] or I try and just be normal and do normal things just to try put it at the back of my mind for awhile.
“It was actually hard because they were all in the middle of the night this time so it was just sleepless, anxious nights. It was really, really, really tough I have to tell you.”
Kellie said she was looking forward to spending time with Mandy and her family after an exhausting schedule.
“I’m exhausted so I can’t wait to get some time with my family and with Mandy, and see my dogs as well. It’s great, the support out here. It’s great to see the rest of the boxing team out to welcome us, and friends and family. It’s amazing. The whole nation has been on wheels, I think, since this started. It’s just fantastic to give people [something] to be smiling about, to be joyful for.”
Kellie said she will wait to see any offers to turn professional before making any decisions.
She said that she will evaluate any offers, including one to stay on the amateur circuit and compete again in the Olympics in Paris in 2024.
Kellie’s victory over Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira in Tokyo, makes her Ireland’s second ever champion in women’s boxing after Katie Taylor in 2012.