Gospel joy as Katie claims gold for Ireland

“I’d be nothing without God.  I’m here because of the grace of God in my life, and because of Jesus in my life and without him I’d be nothing really.  So praise God, thank you Jesus for such a great victory today.”

These were the words of an exultant Katie Taylor yesterday as she won Ireland’s first gold medal in the 2012 Olympics.  The 26-year-old boxer from Bray fought a close contest in the women’s boxing lightweight final at the ExCeL Arena in London against Russia's Sofya Ochigava.

From the start it was a cagey match, both women taking no chances and circling their opponent warily.  The first round was a dead heat at two all, and in the second round, Sofia Ochigava went marginally into the lead.  In the third round Katie led and in the end she was a convincing winner at 10 – 8. 

When the referee held up her hand to indicate she had won, she fell to her knees.  Then an emotional Taylor began to cry, went to her father and threw her arms around him, before jumping up and down exuberantly.

Ochigava had put up a great fight, and at the conclusion of the fourth round, as Katie returned to her corner of the ring she was mouthing the words “Is it me?”

“The last round was very close,” she told RTÉ afterwards. 

“She caught me with a few shots and I caught her with a few shots.  It was such a close contest it could have gone either way.  Thank God it went my way.”

Back in Ireland, businesses closed early to allow workers to watch the historic match and pubs were thronged.  In Bray, Katie’s hometown, many thousands gathered at Ballywaltrim Athletics club to watch the match together on a huge screen.  They had travelled from all over Ireland.

At Katie’s church, St Mark’s Pentecostal Church in Pearse Street, Dublin, the doors opened at 4:00pm, and when she was declared Olympic Champion, just over an hour later, it became the loudest Church in Ireland.

Speaking on the John Murray Show earlier in the day, pastor Sean Mullarkey said that Taylor’s family have been members of their church for many years.  He explained that when Katie pointed her fingers towards heaven at the end of a contest, she was saying, “Thank you Jesus.” 

“That is the focus of her life and that is where her heart is at,” he said.

The church held a special ceremony for Katie before she left for the Olympics where the whole congregation prayed a blessing for her and that she would enjoy the experience. 

“The pressure from the expectations of the whole country can be quite heavy,” said Pastor Mullarkey.  They also prayed for her opponents, that all would be safe.

He said that Katie has a special routine before each fight where her mother Brigid would do her hair to ensure it fit well under the safety cap while at the same time reading Psalm 18 to her. 

The words of this psalm are on the wall of Katie’s boxing club in Bray, and it has been christened “Katie’s psalm.”  Before bouts, she quietly repeats the words as her mother says them.

“This God, his way is blameless; the word of Yahweh is without dross.  He it is who is the shield of all who take shelter in him."

It goes on: “This God who girds me with strength and makes my way without blame ...  who trains my hands for the battle, my arms to bend a bow of bronze.”

After her victory in the semi-finals, the words of the psalm perhaps still in her mind, she told the media, “God is my shield and my strength as always,” and reiterated her thanks for the prayers of the, “mighty men and women,” praying for her.

Taylor told RTÉ yesterday that she had been so nervous all day that she had not eaten, but she calmed down when she arrived at the ring. 

“It was same as any other contest, except for the crowd,” she said laughing. 

She paid tribute to her opponent, saying she was a, “fantastic boxer,” and ended as she began “Thank God for a great victory.” 

by Susan Gately

 

 

 

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