Harrington takes gold at Olympic qualifiers with superb victory over British star Dubois

The Dubliner was a cut above the Englishwoman and will likely be named the top seed for Tokyo, leaving her two fights from an Olympic medal.

Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

Updated Jun 8th 2021, 4:09 PM

KELLIE HARRINGTON HAS topped the podium in the 60kg category at the European Olympic qualifiers in Paris after a split-decision victory over highly touted Briton Caroline Dubois, while Irish team-mate Michaela Walsh will leave Paris with silver after coming up short against Italy’s Irma Testa in the 57kg decider.

Dubliner Harrington was imperious against a formidable foe, taking the contest 30-27 x2 and 29-28 x2 — with one of the five judges remarkably scoring the contest in Dubois’ favour, 29-28.

Harrington, 11 years Dubois’ senior at 31, used all of her experience to nullify the British up-and-comer where necessary and landed the majority of the cleaner work over the three rounds.

The 2018 world champion instantly became emotional as she was deservedly awarded the verdict and, after three years’ plagued by hand injuries and subsequent surgeries, and a 12-month delay due to the pandemic, will likely enter the Tokyo Games as the top seed. She will certainly receive a bye into the last 16, leaving her just two fights from a guaranteed Olympic medal.

Dubois, the younger sister of professional heavyweight Daniel Dubois, was the second fellow medal prospect whom Harrington beat over the past week in Paris: at the quarter-final stage, the Irishwoman outboxed and outmaneuvered feared professional super-featherweight world champion and hometown hero Maiva Hamdouche who won silver at the 2019 Europeans which Harrington missed through injury.

Dubois, who became a youth world champion the same year that Harrington won Elite World Championship gold, had taken out the Dubliner’s longstanding competitive nemesis and Katie Taylor’s Rio 2016 conqueror, Mira Potkonen, en route to today’s final but could find few answers to Harrington’s nous in the final.

Like Harrington, Michaela Walsh had already qualified for Tokyo earlier in the tournament but unlike her Irish team-mate, the Belfast bantamweight had to make do with silver after losing her 57kg final to Italy’s Irma Testa.

Walsh rallied with an impressive third and final round but Testa had taken the first two, and indeed was still awarded the third by three of the five judges, in a unanimous-decision victory (30-27 x3, 29-28 x2).

Testa had eliminated Russian no.1 seed Liudmila Vorontsova earlier in the tournament and controlled the first couple of rounds behind her jab before Walsh grew into the contest over the final three minutes.

The Belfast woman can be more than happy with her week’s work, particularly after she eliminated in the last four Bulgarian Stanimira Petrova, who had previously bested her in the 2019 European Games final.

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Walsh and Harrington are two of seven Irish boxers who have qualified for Tokyo along with Aoife O’Rourke, Aidan Walsh (younger brother of Michaela), Emmet Brennan, Brendan Irvine and Kurt Walker.

Ireland sent six boxers to the London Games in 2012 and two more to Rio 2016, though only seven competed at the latter due to Michael O’Reilly’s failed drugs test.

Bernard Dunne’s squad will each fancy their chances of taking home a medal five years on from a tumultuous summer which saw an almost entirely different travelling party — Irvine being the only boxer remaining — depart Brazil empty-handed.

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