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Katie Taylor wins first Olympic gold medal for Ireland

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 9th Aug 2012 19:05:36

Boxer Katie Taylor has "lifted the spirits of a nation" by winning Ireland's first Olympic gold medal at London 2012, Irish President Michael D Higgins has said.

The 26-year-old, from Bray, County Wicklow, beat Russia's Sofya Ochigava in the lightweight boxing final.

She was cheered on by thousands of excited Irish fans at the ExCeL Arena.

London 2012 is the first Olympic Games in which women have competed in the boxing ring.

President Higgins said: "She truly deserves this historic and hard earned victory; it is a just reward for her dedication and commitment over the years," he said.

The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, said Taylor was ''a force of nature whose pioneering spirit and boxing brilliance have seen her realise her personal dream of winning Olympic gold".

It is the culmination of so much for her”

Speaking after the fight, Taylor said that when the bell rang she did not know whether or not she had won.

"I didn't know what way the scoreline went," she told the Irish state broadcaster, RTE. "It was such as close contest really, it could have went either way."

She also paid tribute to the crowd in the arena who she said had been "amazing".

Many more of her fans gathered in her home town to watch the bout on big screens.

The four-time world champion, who took up the sport at the age of 12, had been a strong favourite to take gold.

She was taught to box by her father Peter, who was 1986 Irish senior light heavyweight champion.

Katie Taylor!!! Unreal!!! That is all.”

At the age of 15, Taylor made boxing history when she fought in Ireland's first ever officially sanctioned women's bout.

After her Olympic victory, the former world champion boxer Barry McGuigan hugged Taylor as she came out of the ring and called her "a legend".

McGuigan also said the thousands of Irish supporters inside the arena had been "incredible" and joked that there was no one left back in Ireland.

Her Olympic teammate, the Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, tweeted: "Katie Taylor!!! Unreal!!! That is all."

Sports stars from outside the world of boxing also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Taylor.

The Republic of Ireland's international goalkeeper, Shay Given, described her as "a true Irish hero", while Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba tweeted: "Laying down in my hospital bed, watching Katie Taylor, She is got the best supporter. The Irish fans are unreal."

Famous faces in the ExCeL Arena audience during the fight included the Duchess of Cambridge - the former Kate Middleton - and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

Back in her homeland, Pastor Sean Mullarkey, from St Mark's Pentecostal church on Dublin's Pearse Street, joined a congregation of fans and churchgoers to cheer on their most famous member.

She is a devout Christian and her family have been part of the church community for about eight years.

The Olympian is well known for pointing to the heavens after her bouts and always praises God for being her "shield and her strength" in post-match interviews.

"Katie normally says 'thank you Jesus' as that's the focus of her life and that's where her heart is at," the pastor said.

One man who knows the boxer well is Glenn Jordan of the East Belfast Mission's Skainos Project, and he said he was thrilled for her.

"I know this has been the target for years for Katie and her parents Pete and Bridget," he said.

"She has shaped much of the last 10 years of her life around the Olympics - it is the culmination of so much for her."

The gold is the fifth medal for Team Ireland at London 2012.

Showjumper Cian O'Connor collected Ireland's first medal of the games on Wednesday.

The other three have all been won by boxers.

John Joe Nevin from Mulligan in County Westmeath, and Belfast fighters Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan - are guaranteed at least a bronze medal each.

All three men fight for the chance to win a place in their respective finals on Friday.

The last Irish boxer to win a gold medal was Michael Carruth in the men's welterweight boxing in Barcelona in 1992.

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