Katie Taylor wins gold for Ireland at London Olympics
Wicklow woman Katie Taylor has won a hugely celebrated gold medal for Ireland in the 2012 Olympics this afternoon when she beat Russian Sofya Ochigava.
Her stunning victory in the women’s lightweight event has lifted the bar on one of Ireland’s best-ever Olympics performances.
The young Bray boxer had already become the focus of a remarkable outpouring of affection and pride for people in Ireland and across the world. Today’s boxing match is believed to have been one of the most watched sporting events in Ireland for several years.
Millions tuned in to see Taylor, the four-time world champion defeat Russia’s Sofya Ochigava, by ten points to eight. Ochigava proved a far more difficult opponent than had been predicted, and was ahead by a single point after the first two cagey rounds. Taylor bounced strongly back in the third round, and managed to par Ochigava in the fourth, despite slipping under a fierce onslaught from the burly Russian.
In the end, there were long and nerve-wracking moments before the Irish woman’s hand was raised, to ecstatic scenes at the ExCel boxing arena.
Ireland’s five medal-winning performances so far matches the country’s best Olympics result to date, the 1956 games in Melbourne.
The successes were mainly due to skillful displays from the Irish boxing squad, drawn from both parts of the island, who have secured at least another three medals. Michael Conlan at flyweight, and Paddy Barnes at light flyweight, both from Belfast, and Mullingar’s John Joe Nevin at bantamweight, are all through to the semi-finals in their respective men’s divisions, and are guaranteed bronze or better.
Cian O’Connor also yesterday took a surprise bronze medal for Ireland in the individual show jumping after a last-minute withdrawal saw his horse called up to compete in the final. After two clear rounds, only a one point time penalty -- imposed due to finishing two-hundredths of a second outside the time allowed -- put him out of the running for gold.
But Taylor’s victory has put her in the company of golden olympic heroes such as Ronnie Delaney and Michael Carruth.
Her performance today had been widely anticipated after she dispatched Mavzuna Chorieva of Tajikistan in the silver medal bout yesterday afternoon in front of a fervent Irish crowd -- and an almost incognito British prime minister David Cameron.
It completes a remarkable journey that started when she watched her father and lifetime coach, Peter, shadow box across the floor of the family kitchen, and marks the culmination of a lifetime’s work.
Speaking before today’s bout, she said today marked the culmination of her dreams and ambitions.
“The support out there is unbelievable: I feel like I’m boxing at home in Dublin, really. Ten thousand Irish people screaming for me, this is what dreams are made of,” she said.