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“Sport is a lonely place. Only the fittest truly survive’ · The42

A miserable Monday morning but both Kellie Harrington and Ellen Keane are in flying form.

Against all odds for Keane, who is currently isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 and having her World Cup preparations messed up.

However, she will continue to smile, as will Harrington, despite the tough questions thrown at her amid the ongoing Irish boxing controversy.

The Olympic and Paralympic gold medalists have been the subject of numerous media calls after being announced as sporting ambassadors for Dublin City Council. They cover a lot of ground in back-to-back interviews. Separately. Their respective careers, their current situation and their exciting new roles.

Two proud Dubliners who love to give back. And of course keep going.

At one point, Harrington is asked about Keane and the unfortunate card she treated with Covid.

“God, I know,” she frowns. “Actually, I just texted her yesterday. I know she’s supposed to go to her camp tomorrow and then to the world championships.

“I’m only writing to her because I was in that position and obviously had to pull out the world championships. I said, ‘Look, Ellen, I know it’s not easy and your head is probably going to be a mess right now, but look, it’s next year that really counts. Next year is the big year. I just went through it all myself, if you need to talk, pick up the phone, give me a call and I’ll meet you for a cup of tea or coffee [after her isolation].’

“I was there.”

Harrington missed the recent World Championships in Istanbul, where Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke both won gold, through injury.

The 32-year-old was unwilling to clarify the nature of the setback but described it as “a small issue” but revealed she hopes to be able to spar again in early July ahead of the European Championships in October.

“I’m slowly but surely coming back and taking care of my physical and mental health,” she notes.

It’s tough and unforgiving in elite sport, as both Harrington and Keane know all too well. Their friendship embodies the brotherhood and camaraderie among elite athletes and what it means.

“It’s great when you win and get out there, everyone wants to get to know you, everyone wants a piece of the pie,” said Harrington. “But if you’re out of competition or you’re losing, there’s only a handful of people who turn to you.

“I’m telling you now, you’ll remember those handfuls of people who reach out to you when you need them faster than you’ll remember the people who just say ‘congratulations’ when you win.

“Usually the people who come forward are your family. Obviously other people have come forward as well, but it’s your family and other athletes who have 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.”

Source: Dublin City Council/YouTube

Keane is the embodiment of that. Her journey to this point is well documented: from a confident “one-armed girl” to a Paralympic champion after 13 years as a high-performance athlete.

Paris 2023 will be her fifth Games after making her debut in Beijing in 2008, aged just 13, becoming Ireland’s youngest Paralympian. Rio 2016 brought a bronze medal, but she was on top of the podium in Tokyo in the same 100m breaststroke SB8 event.

Things are very different now.

“You know, it’s almost easier to come back from games and not win gold than to come back from games and win gold,” she explains.

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“You come back from the games and you’re so motivated because you’re like, ‘I want to win a gold medal. How do I win a gold medal?’ And then when you win the gold medal, you come back and you’re like, ‘Okay, what do I do now?’

“You did what you wanted to do and what you always said you dreamed of and when you come home the low is a lot deeper than it has been in the past. It’s almost like, ‘Am I staying, am I not staying?’

“The reason I chose to stay and not retire was because I know so many athletes who have retired and I know so many athletes whose bodies they may have given up that hurt them through no fault of their own could have been that they can’t continue in the sport and I know how privileged I am that I’m still fit, still competitive. And I know I’m capable of more.

“I think that’s why I chose Dancing with the Stars because I was like, ‘I want to stay, but I just need a little break in my mind from the competition.’ This break made me really hungry to come back and this is what I was waiting for. I was looking for hunger again.

“It’s the end of the season and it’s a new beginning, now the 2022/2023 season is coming and heading to Paris. I’m very excited. I’m enjoying this year and will enjoy competing in Madeira, but I’m really looking forward to being a top performer in the next cycle to follow.”

“What I did in the past and particularly in Tokyo was 2021 Ellen. It’s 2022 now and I’ll have to see where I get in 2024,” Keane adds.

Same goes for Kelly.

Two champions. Two proud Dubliners ready to move on. Together.

BTL 5

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