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Welcome home champion! Kellie Harrington receives hero’s welcome upon her return to Dublin

DUBLIN: Kelly Harrington, who has become the pride of Ireland with her golden achievement, has been warmly welcomed by the Irish people. The Olympic gold medallist returned to Ireland and travelled through her local community on an open-top bus yesterday evening.

The 31-year-old arrived at Dublin Airport from Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon, alongside bronze medallist Aidan Walsh and the rest of Irish Olympians. Team Ireland’s plane was escorted to the gate by fire engines.

The Dublin City Council had made all necessary arrangements in accordance with public health guidelines to welcome the Irish squad back home. The Council has also approved the lighting of the Five Lamps landmark near her home in Portland Row in her honour.

Ms Harrington and other team members toured Dublin’s north inner city on an open-top bus. The bus started at Ballybough and travelled through Gardiner Street, Killarney Street, Portland Row, Sean McDermott Street, Summerhill, and the North Strand.

Earlier, Dublin City Council encouraged only locals to line the streets for the occasion, as well as people not to travel to the airport owing to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

However, hundreds of people turned up to show their support and to celebrate the boxer’s achievement. Ms Harrington was greeted heroically as the crowds chanted, ‘Kellie! Kellie! Kellie!’

Speaking to media outside Dublin Airport yesterday afternoon, Harrington said: “It means the world to me to bring back the gold. But my mentality is, anybody who steps through those ropes and makes it to an Olympic Games is a champion, regardless of whether you bring a medal back or not.

“For me, it’s not always about winning medals and stuff like that. It’s about getting through the doors of the boxing club, for all the young people out there, all the teenagers out there.

“Boxing is an escape for a lot of people. I just hope that with the success that we’ve had out here, that we get a lot of funding now into local boxing clubs and we support local boxing clubs. That’s what we need.”

Ms Harrington said she will wait for offers to turn professional before considering her future. “I’m thinking Paris [2024 Olympics], I’m thinking pro. I’m at the age now where you see what offer you get [and which is the more appealing]. We’ll see what offers come my way. I’ll do what is best for me.”

Before Kellie arrived, her father Christy described the atmosphere on Portland Row as “like Christmas Eve.” “It’s like we are all waiting for Santa Claus! They’re actually tracking Kellie’s plane home. So, it’s like Christmas Eve here for all of us. It really is powerful,” he said.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, congratulated Harrington and said that it is a “wonderful day” for the city. “Dublin is bursting with pride. Kellie and all our local Olympians have allowed us to journey with them over the last few weeks,” Gilliland said.

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