Kellie Harrington has admitted that despite her boxing success, sport can be a “lonely place”.
The Olympic gold medalist was welcomed with open arms in Ireland after her stay in Tokyo last summer, but said she’s noticed people just want “a piece of the pie” when she’s actively competing.
She said she was able to see who really cares about her after she had “a little problem” that kept her from attending the Worlds this month.
“It’s all great when you’re winning and you’re out there competing and stuff like that. Everyone wants to get to know you; everyone wants a piece of the pie,” explained the Dubliner.
“But if you’re out of competition or you’re losing, there’s only a handful of people who turn to you.
“You remember the handful of people reaching out to you when you need them faster than the people who were all there and ‘congratulated’ you when you won.”
She said it’s usually family, close friends or other athletes who check on her.
“Usually the people who come forward are your family. There are obviously other people reporting as well [mostly] Your family and other athletes who come forward.
“I think the people who will come forward are the ones who have been there and know what it’s like to be there because it’s a lonely place. Sport makes you lonely. Only the strongest truly survive.”
The 32-year-old said she was devastated to miss the World Championships earlier this month in Istanbul, where Dundalk boxer Amy Broadhurst and Roscommon native Lisa O’Rourke took home the gold.
“It’s really hard when you sit back and watch your weight, especially with all the money at stake.
“It was very, very difficult at first, but when I could watch the team – I’ve been training with these girls for quite a while now, so when you see them and their performance, not just the two world champions, but the team as a whole , it just makes me so happy to be a part of it.
“And then watching the two girls go ahead and take the gold, that was just the icing on the cake. It was absolutely brilliant. It was a great day for Irish sport.
“I contacted them immediately after they won and I went to the airport to meet them when they got home,” she told sundayworld.com.
As for what’s next for Kellie, she said she’s busy recovering from her injury but plans to return to the ring this summer.
“Hopefully I’ll be back in sparring early July and just getting ready for that [EUBC Women’s Boxing Championship] in October. I’m coming back slowly but surely. I take care of my physical and mental health.
Meanwhile, Kellie has been unveiled as Dublin City Council’s sports ambassador on a new three-year deal alongside Paralympic champion Ellen Keane.
Speaking of her new role, she said: “As a proud Dubliner, I am truly honored to be a Sports Ambassador for Dublin City Council.
“Sport has had a permanent place in my life since I was young and it’s great to see how diverse the offer is here in the capital. I am delighted to be a part of this and very much look forward to helping DCC showcase their fantastic work.”