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World medallist Harrington working as hospital dinner lady to fund training

The World silver medallist is preparing for next month’s European Championships without any state funding.

World silver medallist Kellie Harrington.
World silver medallist Kellie Harrington.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Updated 10.25

KELLIE HARRINGTON IS in a precarious situation. You can tell she wants to express her frustration, and anger, but at the same time she knows anything she says may work against her.

“I’m not bitter, I just want what I should be getting,” she says diplomatically.

Her situation is this; with less than two weeks before she flies to Sofia for the European Championships, Harrington has been forced to sustain her training programme without any state funding.

Since winning World silver in May, the boxer hasn’t received a cent in support and must wait until the turn of the year to discover if she will be awarded an Irish Sports Council grant for 2017.

In the last few months, the 26-year-old has been working part-time as a dinner lady in St Vincent’s Psychiatric Hospital to ensure the bills can be paid. It’s not an ideal situation.

“No, it’s not at all but it is what it is,” she tells The42. “It is very hard but I’ve no problem with working. It’s very hard to balance both but if it has to be done it has to be done. I would be tired after a shift and to then go and train is difficult because you can’t put 100% in.

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“If you don’t receive that funding you’re in limbo. You have to go and work to pay the bills and it leaves a huge weight on your shoulders. If I’m thinking of work and money, I can’t fully concentrate on what matters and that’s going out and boxing.

“I’ve been working my arse off in my job and my coaches would even come down and do pads with me on my lunch break. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind working and I enjoy my job but I shouldn’t need to when I’m preparing to represent the country.”

As it stands, Harrington is combining training at her home club in Glasnevin with sessions alongside the High Performance Unit. Her spare time outside the ring is largely consumed by shifts in the hospital. It’s a draining existence.

“I’m only working every second weekend right now because I’m trying to focus on the Europeans but if I wasn’t getting the little bit of help [from local businesses] I’m getting then I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’d be working full-time,” she explains.

“Even still it’s just full-on because you’re in that environment for the day and around it all the time. I don’t know whether people are under the illusion that I’m earning millions but they always ask why don’t I give it up. I’m not earning a lot of money anyway so there’s no way I could give it up.

“Look it’s just the reality of it. Personally I don’t think it’s right, you win a medal in May and you’re going to the Europeans in November and wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to worry about any of that.”

Kellie Harrington with her Silver Medal Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Instead, Harrington heads to Bulgaria with not only the weight of expectation on her shoulders but the burden of essentially fighting for a grant.

As much as you’d like to think she has already done enough to secure one for next year, you can’t help but feel a second major medal would seal the deal.

“That’s where the pressure is on,” she explains. “If I get a medal in the Europeans it will make it all the better but I should be getting funding regardless of what happens at the Europeans. Possibly it will make it more likely but I should get it regardless.

“I’ll give it my best shot and gold is certainly the goal. We’ll be going over there with every intention to bring gold home and I’d love to do it for myself, my club and family and also for Ireland.”

– The original headline on this article (“World medallist Harrington forced to work as hospital dinner lady to fund training”) was amended at 10.25.

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Ryan Bailey

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