Tonight, Ireland’s Olympic gold medal winner, boxer Katie Taylor is being welcomed home as a hero in her hometown of Bray, Co Wicklow. Her success has lifted the spirit of this little island right up to where it should be. Just what we needed and just when we need it.
Of Ireland’s 5 Olympic medals in London 2012, 4 are for boxing. Our other boxing winners are the amazing John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan. And we have several other brilliant boxers who just missed out on medal places at the Olympics. Ireland put on an amazing boxing display. And for anyone who thinks amateur boxing is all about punching, it is also about the skill of ducking and diving to avoid the punches. Something Katie does very well.
Katie had huge support during her fights in London. I think the level of support surprised everyone, except the Irish. We knew she was going for gold, just listen to this 50 second clip of Katie being interviewed on the radio as an 11-year-old:
Her win is even more special because Katie is a beautiful woman, who is always very gracious when she speaks, and she is a champion in what is considered a very male sport.
Here in Ireland we have a special relationship with boxing and I’m not sure why. My earliest sporting memories are of boxing. I am not the only one of my generation who remembers as a young child watching Muhammad Ali fight in the 1970s. My parents would hush us when he appeared on TV. Everyone loved to hear him speak, his words were just as entertaining, if not more so, than the championship fights. Muhammad Ali was much-loved in Ireland then and that was before any of us knew that his great-grandfather was an Irishman, Abe Grady who emigrated from Ennis, County Clare in 1860, just after the famine.
Maybe that little bit of Irish DNA in his blood helped him achieve his success in the boxing ring, I’m definitely convinced it contributed to the gift of the gab that he is famous for.
Now our Katie may not have his super-confident swagger, but she is just as much a champion. And though my daughters saw Muhammad Ali in Ennis, it is Katie Taylor they will remember when they are grown.
Well done Katie Taylor! We love you!
For more on Katie’s homecoming party: http://www.rte.ie/news/player.html
To watch the Katie’s winning fight: http://www.rte.ie/player/#!v=10040848 Skip to 1:04:28 to see the medal presentation and her supporters sing our national anthem.