Belfast Telegraph

Boxer Katie bigger than Bolt: Fans

The home town of Ireland's Olympic champion Katie Taylor has thrown down a new challenge to the sporting world - claiming she is bigger than Usain Bolt.

"Everyone loves her - and not just in Ireland," said Connor Fitzpatrick, one of 10,000 die-hard fans at the screening of the gold medal fight in Bray, Co Wicklow. "She's the world's favourite Olympian. She's bigger than Bolt."

Earlier, US magazine Sports Illustrated echoed the sentiment in an article when it compared Taylor to the 100m champion.

The 26-year-old, who carried the Irish Tricolour at the opening ceremony of London 2012, made history 20 years and a day since Ireland's last boxing gold.

The whole island was gripped with Katie Taylor fever - from the thousands outside the Shoreline Leisure Centre minutes from Katie's home to several hundred on the grounds of Belfast's city hall and dozens of her church friends at St Mark's Pentecostal.

Eugene O'Kane, an amateur judge and chairman at Derry city's Oakleaf boxing club, was wholehearted in his praise. "She is a trailblazer, she is one of the people that put women's boxing into the Olympics because of her exploits," he said.

With the ExCel Arena the focus, Taylor's hometown of Bray was close to a letdown after a 40-minute power cut until minutes before Katie's fight against Russian Sofya Ochigava. The tension switched to nerves when the local heroine went a point down only to box her way to gold, putting both her sport and country firmly on the map.

Supporters were keen to let the capped Ireland football international decide her own future, with an offer said to be on the table from Arsenal Ladies.

Taylor's progress through the tournament was all the more poignant given her involvement in the campaign to include women's boxing as an official Olympic sport - a development announced three years ago shortly after the Beijing Games.

Winning gold is an ambition she harboured for years and with the medal and four world championships to her name, a Dublin reception was being planned for the heart of the city on Monday.

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