Donna Ahern speaks to Olympic Gold Medallist Kellie Harrington about her new role as the official brand ambassador for SPAR, as well as her boxing career to date.
How would you describe your role as brand ambassador?
This week, SPAR announced their new brand partnership with me for the next three years.
I will be working with them to help support their campaigns, and they will be supporting me for the next Olympic cycle up until 2024.
I am delighted to be working with them and I am looking forward to the next three years.
Can you tell us about the upcoming SPAR campaigns?
We have just launched the SPAR Community Christmas Fund, which is a great initiative, and one that I am delighted to be involved in.
The SPAR Christmas Fund will give away €10,000 to clubs in communities across Ireland.
You can nominate your local mentor to win €1,000 for their club, thanks to the SPAR Christmas Community Fund, and you can find out how to enter on spar.ie
Why did SPAR choose you?
This partnership feels right. Everyone knows I am passionate about my community.
I grew up with a SPAR store around the corner. There is one at the end of our road at the Five Lamps in Dublin, and there is a SPAR in every community across Ireland.
Most are family businesses. In addition, SPAR has always been a major supporter of sport, including athletics, grassroots football, and generally active lifestyles.
I think the partnership aligns well with what is important to me in my life.
How did winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games make you feel, and how has it changed your life?
I felt both relief and a huge sense of pride. When you work so hard to achieve your goals and you see the lift that it provides to the people of Ireland, and to your own community, it fills you with pride and happiness.
But my life has definitely not changed – I still do the same things, and I am the same person that I was before the win. The only change is that now there are people wanting a few selfies here and there!
However, I do feel like I now have a stronger voice and that I am more of a role model.
I love giving, so if I can give someone a little bit of inspiration, a little bit of get up and go, that means the world to me.
How did you feel when you were met by crowds of excited fans and locals lining the streets for your homecoming to Portland Row?
It was just incredible.
To see the street lined with families, kids, friends, so many familiar faces, and the joy that it brought to the inner-city community, is a memory that will live with me for a long time.
I can never forget where I come from.
Community is what made me, and it is what has given me the resilience to be who I am today.
You recently announced that you will stay amateur. What is the reason behind this decision?
Amateur boxing is right for me. I made my decision and I have great support from Sport Ireland, the IABA and my partners at the SPAR group. I am very happy in the amateur set up and where I am right now.
I am extremely proud of my sport, and I am confident about what I can do over the coming years.
Have you started training to defend your Olympic crown at the Paris Games in three years’ time?
It has been hard to take a complete break from boxing.
I had a few weeks off after the Olympics and then returned to high performance training in mid-October at the National Sports Campus, and with my coach Noel Burke at St Marys BC.
We can work on things that I need to improve on, like my footwork. I wanted to get straight back in, but I had to prepare slowly and mind myself well.
I really missed the routine, but it is all going well, and I am now working on the simple little things.
What is the best advice you have been given?
That pressure is a privilege!
What does the future hold for your career?
I am back in high performance training, and I am working in the IABA programme now for the Paris cycle, with a mixture of training in Abbottstown, my club, and a few overseas training camps until the programme is agreed for next year and beyond.
I want to be the best version of myself, and continue to be a role model for others.