Golden girl Kellie Harrington has declared 2021 as the Year of Irish Sportswomen.
Harrington, who struck gold in the boxing ring for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics, was crowned as Irish Tatler’s Woman of the Year last Friday night.
The 31-year-old Dubliner admitted she was “shocked” to pick up the award at the Shelbourne Hotel.
But Harrington sees her success as a reflection of a breakthrough year for Irish sports women in general.
Rachael Blackmore continued to blaze a trail in the horse racing world by winning the Champion Hurdle and Grand National.
Leona Maguire stamped her class representing Europe in the Solheim Cup victory while Ellen Keane swam for gold at the Paralympics among several success stories, including Katie-George Dunlevy backing up her Rio gold in cycling.
Katie Taylor remains an unbeaten world champion across several boxing divisions, the Meath Ladies football team marched to All Ireland glory and Katie McCabe has led a revival of the Irish women’s soccer team.
“I mean, 2021 is the year of the women, isn’t it? We’ve shined this year,” Harrington declared.
“Everybody has really got to see women’s sport this year, it’s been crazy.
“I think going forward this year alone has made a massive impact, not just what I’ve done, what every female has done.
“It’s nice to be appreciated! I think this year has made a great impact, and long may it last.
“You know, to be surrounded in a room with so many strong, empowering and encouraging women – you have doctors, singers, actors, business women.
“I was buzzing with watching everyone get their awards all night – even Katie (Dunlevy) getting her sports award, I was absolutely buzzing.
“It was just amazing, everyone was so happy for each other.
“I never thought I would get the overall woman of the year award surrounded by so many smart, powerful women. I was just shocked – to be the winner was absolutely amazing.
“They played clips of people’s reactions when I won fights and stuff like that and it was so surreal and emotional to watch.
“It felt like this was me and my community and the whole of Ireland that had won this.”
However Harrington recognises that there are Irish sports women who are struggling to fulfil their abilities due to poor facilities, resources and support.
The problems facing the Ireland women’s rugby team were highlighted in the wake of their World Cup qualification failure.
“Absolutely, there’s definitely still work to be done across Ireland, and the sooner the better,” she stated.
“I think that badness needs to be put out there, out to the public, so people can see, and for people not to be afraid to stand up and speak up and to hear about bad situations.”
Harrington will return to action before next March’s rescheduled World Championships, having admitted she returned to full training too early following her Tokyo success and needed to scale back again.
But she insisted that she was not feeling extra pressure in the wake of her golden triumph.
“Pressure is a privilege, and I’m in a privileged position to be a role model for those younger people coming up, and for older people, too,” said Harrington, who has returned to her work at St Vincent’s Hospital.
“It’s a great position to be in, and I’m trying to be the best role model I can be.
“I just think the best role model I can be to anybody is to be yourself, and not try to be someone else, or sucked into all this razzmatazz, people saying you’re famous and a star – not to believe in the hype, really.
“Be normal, that’s what I want to get across – but be hungry for you and your sport, stay grounded.”
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