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Kenny Egan brought back a silver medal for Ireland from the Olympic Games – but almost everyone agrees it should have been gold. A national sporting hero, he tells Hot Press of his plans for the future...
Jason O'Toole, 23 Jan 2009
Kenny Egan is unquestionably the Irish sporting hero of the year.
The 26-year-old Clondalkin man came agonisingly close to returning home from Beijing with an Olympic gold, which would have made him the first Irish athlete in over a decade to achieve the accolade.
Egan lost the final in deeply controversial circumstances. By common consensus, he was robbed in the final against the Chinese boxer Xiaoping Zhang. As Egan puts it himself: “There were some very dodgy decisions out there. But it never dawned on me that I was boxing a Chinaman in China! I never considered the politics and everything else about it.”
Egan – along with the two other Irish boxers who won medals at the Olympics, Paddy Barnes and Darren Sutherland – came home a national hero, to his amazement.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as big as it was, until I got home and seen all the people at the airport and everything. I said, ‘Holy fuck! What’s going on here?’”
In the months since, he’s been turned into a fully-fledged celebrity by the media, with appearances on the likes of Podge & Rodge and The Panel, as well as his own DVD entitled Kenny Egan – Back From Beijing. He has also been thrust onto the front pages of the tabloids, who’ve tracked his every move, and speculated endlessly about his love life.
“I’m not a celebrity – I’m an athlete,” he states. “To be honest with you, at the start I was naive. When I’m approached now by the media, all I’ll say is, ‘No comment!’ And walk off.”
Clearly, as we settle down to do the Hot Press interview, Kenny Egan has much to get off his chest...
JASON O’TOOLE: It seems that the final was a real hometown decision, to put it bluntly...
KENNY EGAN: Yes – definitely. If it had been anywhere else on the planet, I would’ve got the decision. At the same time, the judges are only human and – with 48,000 Chinese screaming and shouting in the arena – I think they were influenced. I watched it six weeks after I got back to Dublin. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it before that, you know? When I sat down to watch it with my coach Billy Walsh, our reactions were recorded for the documentary. It’s actually on the DVD. I felt I won it by three points, but...