Sonia O'Sullivan says Ireland's Olympic medallist Kellie Harrington has captured the imagination of the nation "nice and quietly" - taking the competition one fight at a time.
She was speaking after the Dublin boxer secured her place in Sunday's final - meaning the 31-year-old is guaranteed at least a silver medal.
What a day!
Kellie Harrington captured perfectly by @sportsfile as she advances to the Women’s Light Olympic Final following a 3-2 split decision win over Sudaporn Seesondee (THA) 🇮🇪🥊🇮🇪🥊🇮🇪 #TeamIreland #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/QYbjiycx8m
— Team Ireland (@TeamIreland) August 5, 2021
On The Hard Shoulder, Sonia says she's really looking forward to this weekend's fight.
She said: "It’s really exciting to see everybody getting behind Kellie - especially all her friends, family and neighbours in Portland Row.
“I went over there last week, myself and Rob [Heffernan], to check out all the flags and decorations… it was a quiet day, so we knocked on her door and said hello to her mother. It was lovely to drop in and wish her well.
"[Kellie] has taken it step-by-step. There wasn’t a huge expectation on her at the start of the Olympics… now the expectation is building the whole time, but because she has been taking it one fight at a time it hasn’t been overwhelming for her… she can set herself up for each fight. This is the last one now she needs to prepare for."
"Amazing races and super-fast times"
There's been a long road to this year's Olympics - the event was pushed back an entire year due to the COVID crisis, while there was strong public resistance in Japan recently to holding the Games.
Events in Tokyo have also been taking place without fans, meaning the athletes have been competing without their friends or families present.
Sonia - who won a silver medal for Ireland back in the 2000 Olympics - says it has been a surprisingly good Olympics despite the difficult circumstances.
She said: "Putting aside the fact there are no fans… the competition, particularly in athletics, has been amazing.
"There have been amazing races and super-fast times. It’s great to see the athletes being rewarded.”
Many of the usual races and meets haven't taken place over the last year, but Sonia said athletes have used the last year to ensure they're "fitter and faster" than ever before.
She said: “The women’s 400-metre hurdles was outstanding.
"Everyone was talking about the men’s [event]…. rewriting the record books. But for the women to come out and do the exact same thing the next day was just fantastic.”
Team Ireland is set to hit its medal target, having secured a gold medal and two bronzes even before Kellie Harrington secured her medal.
However, Sonia says it's not just about medals.
She said: “It’s always great to see some medals being won… I think from that point of view it has been successful.
"There have also been a lot of athletes in the track and field team who’ve competed really well - I think a lot of them are an upwards trajectory.”
She said seeing the competition at this year's Games will help Irish athletes prepare for the Paris 2024 Games, which are now just three years away.