She turned to her corner and uttered gently something along the lines of, "is it me?" Not a touch of arrogance on a face that suddenly looked more childlike than was possible, considering the feet the owner of it had just managed.
Katie Taylor was looking at her father with the curiousity of a child. She didn't raise hers arms or egotistically announce herself the champion. Instead, she looked to her father, her leader and her coach who had a smile on his face and looked approvingly back at her.
Regardless of the result, she had made him proud.
Taylor's father may have been standing on the pulpit of the boxing ring in London, but a million more people shared the very same expression in Ireland in front of their televisions, while thousands more in the audience at the arena chanted and cheered her name.
Regardless of whether she had won gold or silver, or even if she had lost in the very first round of the tournament, every single Irish person watching on was proud of Katie Taylor. She likely had no clue, she may not have even noticed the chanting of the crowd around her during her battle with Russian boxer Sofya Ochigava in the final of the competition, but the explosion of the emotion which emanated from her when the referee raised her right hand was mirrored millions of times over.
Katie Taylor had become Olympic champion.
It did not matter that most expected it. It did not matter how it happened. It did not matter that it came down to the wire. All that mattered was Taylor had done it.
She was a hero.
The emotional ride of the day was shared between fans and competitor alike. Taylor entered the ring with sheer focus on her face, while most of us were pointlessly trying to will her to victory from afar as if it could actually have any affect. Then came the aggression. A lot less than previous rounds, when Taylor blew past her opponents overwhelming them with her speed and strength, she fought a controlled fight tactically taking advantage of her opposition's weaknesses and nullifying her strengths. The girl who so often shows so little emotion then exploded into happiness once the decision was in.
Taylor had delivered everything she promised.
At only 26 years of age, Taylor is clearly the most dominant boxer in her class. Nonetheless, her drive and determination to prove it was palpable. She had no ego. Like I said, she didn't raise her hands proclaiming herself the victor at the final bell, she humbly turned to her father for recognition. She combined the passion and determination of a Roy Keane, with the modesty and grace of the fans who follow her.
In essence, Taylor encapsulated the Irish attitude in its most perfect form. Her greatness inside the ring was easy for all to see. She ferociously beat British boxer Natasha Jonas in her first fight, before beating Mavzuna Chorieva from Tajikistan in the semi finals. Her power and speed were too great for those challenges. The final represented a different obstacle altogether. Even though Taylor was the favorite, Ochigava was one of the few fighters who had beaten the Bray woman.
Ochigava led entering the second last round. The pressure on Taylor was noticeable and her father referenced it during the break in the corner. A lesser athlete would have questioned themselves, deviated from the gameplan and become reckless. Not Taylor. Taylor stuck to her plan with all the confidence necessary to win championships in any sport at any level.
From the moment the final bell rang however, all that confidence was sapped from her body. Never was there a trace of arrogance, her face showed no ego. She carried a demeanor that was more like a little girl, or boy, daring to dream rather than a prized fighter with the world at her feet.
It took 24 minutes, 43 points scored, 32 surrendered with countless more punches thrown and endured for Taylor to reach this moment.
Now the mistake would be not to enjoy it. Not to revel in it. Not to taste every single second of success and suck it from depths of whence it began. Millions of people were in the ring with Taylor feeling every punch, every single one of them should enjoy the victory.
That's not to take away from Taylor's achievement, it was ALL her work, but sharing in her success through pride is what we do as a nation. It's what we should focus on now.
Leave others to question the victory. To try and place her in the pantheon of Ireland's greatest ever athletes. To question whether it is time to turn to the professional ranks or not. While the world stands up and takes notice
, all we need to do is be proud.
Katie Taylor, you are beyond world class. You are the most dominant boxer in the world at your division. More importantly, you are the perfect International representation of us all. All we can do is congratulate you and enjoy the pride you have instilled in us all.