“I am more of a role model now… it’s a privilege to be in that position.”
Kellie Harrington has had a busy year. From winning an Olympic Gold medal to being named Irish Tatler’s Woman of the Year 2021, her explosive success seems second to none.
She’s also won the hearts of the nation with her humble and down-to-earth personality – “Sure, why would you be anything else?” she says.
The boxer tells Her that she feels like her life really hasn’t changed since taking home an Olympic Gold medal.
“My life has definitely not changed,” she says. “I still do the same things, I’m exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is now there’s people wanting a few selfies here and there!
“I suppose I feel like I’ve a stronger voice and I am more of a role model now… I do try think before I act because you are in the limelight, you’re in that position.
“There is kids and teenagers out there looking at you, some people are hanging on your every word, so you’ve gotta be mindful of that. It’s a privilege to be in that position.”
After exploding onto the amateur boxing scene and gaining a legion of fans nationwide, people were shocked when Kellie said she’d be keeping her job as a cleaner at St. Vincent’s hospital. But she is adamant that the new-found attention will never go to her head.
“People are like to me: ‘Oh my god you’re so normal, you’re so humble’. And I’m just like, of course I am! Why would I change?
“In fairness, I do see people who get a bit of success and a bit of money and they do change but that’s just not me. I’ve fallen on hard times when I was younger and I’ll never forget the people who helped me.
“Never look down on someone cos you never know when they could be helping you back up. I just think it’s so important that we do stay humble and be ourselves, like.
“If being yourself isn’t that, if you weren’t humble before you won the medal or before you became successful, then fine, fair enough,” she laughs.
“But otherwise, never change, don’t let anything go to your head.”
The importance of community is something that is massively important to Kellie – it’s what makes us who we are.
This week she announced a partnership with Spar and has paired with the chain to create the Spar Christmas Community Fund, through which ten local community mentors will have a chance to win €1,000 each for their local club or community group.
“For me, I can never forget where I come from,” she says. “Community is what made me and it’s what has given me great resilience to be who I am today.”
Once upon a time, boxing was perceived as a boy’s sport and, in many ways, it’s still heavily male-dominated, but Kellie says women shouldn’t be afraid to go out there and challenge this notion. 2021, she declares, has been the year of the woman.
“It’s the year of the women in sport. I feel and I know that a lot more boxing clubs have now got females through the doors in the last couple of months.
“I feel for any young girl that wants to step through the doors of a sporting club that is male dominated. But just go for it! I know it’s so easy for me to say that. But you won’t know what it feels like until you step through them doors and go for it. And I can guarantee you that most of the clubs will welcome you in with open arms. “
Kellie says that when she was younger, she never expected her life would take this path.
“I wasn’t into sport at all. I suppose I kinda went down the wrong road for a while and when I got into boxing, at the start, I more or less… honestly, I need something to save me at that stage.
“But I was tippin’ away and then I got the hunger for it. I became part of a family and I really got the hunger for boxing so I stuck it out.
“I had never any ambitions to become an Olympic champion or to even get to the Olympics or anything like that. Never had that.”
Maybe Kellie didn’t plan to become a huge name in the field of boxing or an Olympic Gold medalist, but she certainly has high hopes for the rest of her career.
“I’m not getting any younger so my plans need to made carefully and selectively,” she says. “I’m working now with coaches and physiologists to work out a plan, but the main plan is to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2024.
“Now, there’s gonna be couple of things in between and so on but they’re just part of the journey, the real bigger picture is the qualifier in 2023.”
We’re wishing her the best of luck!