Katie Taylor wins first Olympic gold medal for Ireland

Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava Katie Taylor beat Russia's Sofya Ochigava 10-8 in the women's lightweight boxing final
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava The 26-year-old, from Bray in County Wicklow, was cheered on by thousands of excited Irish fans at the ExCeL Arena
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava The four-time world champion was a strong favourite to take gold
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava London 2012 is the first Olympic Games in which women have competed in the boxing ring
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, said Taylor was ''a force of nature whose pioneering spirit and boxing brilliance have seen her realise her personal dream of winning Olympic gold"
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava Irish boxer Barry McGuigan hugged Taylor as she came out of the ring and called her "a legend"
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava McGuigan also said the thousands of Irish supporters inside the arena had been "incredible" and joked that there was no one left back in Ireland
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava Her Olympic teammate, the Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, tweeted: "Katie Taylor!!! Unreal!!! That is all."
Katie Taylor fights Russia's Sofya Ochigava Republic of Ireland's international goalkeeper Shay Given described her as "a true Irish hero"
Katie Taylor declared victor over Russia's Sofya Ochigava Famous faces in the ExCeL Arena audience during the fight included the Duchess of Cambridge - the former Kate Middleton - and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg
Katie Taylor hugs coach The last Irish boxer to win a gold medal was Michael Carruth in the men's welterweight boxing in Barcelona in 1992
Katie Taylor celebrates Taylor, who was Ireland's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, was behind after two rounds but dominated the rest of the fight to take the Olympic title
Katie Taylor waves Irish tricolour Taylor was up against a familiar foe, having beaten Ochigava to the world title in China in May
Katie Taylor waves Irish tricolour London 2012 officials declared the roar of the crowd at Taylor's first bout as 'louder than a jumbo jet taking off'
Katie Taylor That 113.7 decibel reading must surely have been smashed when Taylor took victory - underlining her status as one of Ireland's greatest athletes
Katie Taylor celebrates Irish President Michael D Higgins said Taylor had "lifted the spirits of a nation" after winning gold.

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Boxer Katie Taylor has "lifted the spirits of a nation" by winning Ireland's first Olympic gold medal at London 2012, Irish President Michael D Higgins has said.

The 26-year-old, from Bray, County Wicklow, beat Russia's Sofya Ochigava in the lightweight boxing final.

She was cheered on by thousands of excited Irish fans at the ExCeL Arena.

London 2012 is the first Olympic Games in which women have competed in the boxing ring.

President Higgins said: "She truly deserves this historic and hard earned victory; it is a just reward for her dedication and commitment over the years," he said.

'Amazing'

The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, said Taylor was ''a force of nature whose pioneering spirit and boxing brilliance have seen her realise her personal dream of winning Olympic gold".

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Glenn Jordan

It is the culmination of so much for her”

End Quote Glenn Jordan East Belfast Mission

Speaking after the fight, Taylor said that when the bell rang she did not know whether or not she had won.

"I didn't know what way the scoreline went," she told the Irish state broadcaster, RTE. "It was such as close contest really, it could have went either way."

She also paid tribute to the crowd in the arena who she said had been "amazing".

Many more of her fans gathered in her home town to watch the bout on big screens.

The four-time world champion, who took up the sport at the age of 12, had been a strong favourite to take gold.

'Legend'

She was taught to box by her father Peter, who was 1986 Irish senior light heavyweight champion.

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Katie Taylor!!! Unreal!!! That is all.”

End Quote Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes

At the age of 15, Taylor made boxing history when she fought in Ireland's first ever officially sanctioned women's bout.

After her Olympic victory, the former world champion boxer Barry McGuigan hugged Taylor as she came out of the ring and called her "a legend".

McGuigan also said the thousands of Irish supporters inside the arena had been "incredible" and joked that there was no one left back in Ireland.

Her Olympic teammate, the Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, tweeted: "Katie Taylor!!! Unreal!!! That is all."

Sports stars from outside the world of boxing also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Taylor.

Katie Taylor celebrates her win over Russia's Sofya Ochigava Katie Taylor celebrates her win over Russia's Sofya Ochigava

The Republic of Ireland's international goalkeeper, Shay Given, described her as "a true Irish hero", while Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba tweeted: "Laying down in my hospital bed, watching Katie Taylor, She is got the best supporter. The Irish fans are unreal."

Famous faces in the ExCeL Arena audience during the fight included the Duchess of Cambridge - the former Kate Middleton - and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

Back in her homeland, Pastor Sean Mullarkey, from St Mark's Pentecostal church on Dublin's Pearse Street, joined a congregation of fans and churchgoers to cheer on their most famous member.

She is a devout Christian and her family have been part of the church community for about eight years.

The Olympian is well known for pointing to the heavens after her bouts and always praises God for being her "shield and her strength" in post-match interviews.

"Katie normally says 'thank you Jesus' as that's the focus of her life and that's where her heart is at," the pastor said.

Katie Taylor poses with her gold medal Katie Taylor poses with her gold medal

One man who knows the boxer well is Glenn Jordan of the East Belfast Mission's Skainos Project, and he said he was thrilled for her.

"I know this has been the target for years for Katie and her parents Pete and Bridget," he said.

"She has shaped much of the last 10 years of her life around the Olympics - it is the culmination of so much for her."

The gold is the fifth medal for Team Ireland at London 2012.

Showjumper Cian O'Connor collected Ireland's first medal of the games on Wednesday.

The other three have all been won by boxers.

John Joe Nevin from Mulligan in County Westmeath, and Belfast fighters Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan - are guaranteed at least a bronze medal each.

All three men fight for the chance to win a place in their respective finals on Friday.

The last Irish boxer to win a gold medal was Michael Carruth in the men's welterweight boxing in Barcelona in 1992.

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