Belfast Telegraph

Golden girl pays tribute to fans

Ireland's golden girl Katie Taylor has paid tribute to the legions of Irish fans who roared her to a thrilling victory in the Olympic lightweight boxing final.

The 26-year-old fulfilled the hopes of her nation after realising her own dreams in front of thousands of ecstatic supporters in the ExCel arena.

There were unforgettable scenes inside the packed venue when her triumph in the agonisingly tight fight was announced.

"The crowd was just unbelievable all week for any Irish boxer," she said. "It was just incredible, it was like a home Games."

Taylor, from Bray, Co Wicklow, said it was a huge relief to win. "This was what I always dreamed of," she said. "I have envisaged this moment so many times before and it's just better than all my wildest dreams to be sitting here as Olympic champion and European and world champion. Thank God for everything he's done for me in my life. It's such relief that I have this gold medal round my neck."

Having carried a heavy weight of expectation for years, Taylor sank to her knees when the result was read out as the delirious travelling fans roared in joy and sheer relief.

The chaotic stands were already a heaving patchwork quilt of green, white and orange when the comeback win was confirmed.

After hugging her Russian opponent Sofya Ochigava, Taylor embraced her father and trainer Peter and then saluted her devoted supporters. She then unfurled an Irish tricolour and draped it round her shoulders, prompting more bedlam in the crowd.

Irish boxing hero Barry McGuigan hugged the lightweight gold medallist as she descended from the ring. After Taylor departed, the "Clones Cyclone", with tears in his eyes, also paid tribute to the fans. "You've been incredible," McGuigan said on the microphone, speculating that there was no one left back in Ireland.

Later Taylor returned for an emotional victory ceremony. Many fans cried as the Irish national anthem rang round the low ceilings of the stadium at deafening volume. To show her appreciation at the end, Taylor jogged around the ring with a flag held high before finally leaving the stage she had made her own.

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