NEWS

Mary Spencer, Canadian Boxer, Awarded Wild-Card Berth For London Olypmics

06/18/2012 12:15 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT
AP
Boxers usually wait just a moment or two before learning whether they've won a decision.

In Mary Spencer's case, the agonizing wait lasted a month and her Olympic dreams hung in the balance. She finally got the news she was hoping for Monday when she was awarded a wild-card entry for the London Games.

"I'm almost speechless," Spencer said at a news conference at the Windsor Amateur Boxing Club. "Actually it's a very exciting time for me of course. We've been waiting for this news for a while now.

"So it's very good news to finally have."

The three-time world champion from Windsor, Ont., has been touted as one of Canada's top medal hopefuls in London and her absence would have been a big blow to the national team.

Spencer was the top seed in her 75-kilogram weight class but she lost her opening bout last month at the world championships, which served as the Olympic qualifier. She still had a chance to lock up a spot in London based on the results of other bouts, but that didn't work out in her favour either.

That started a long waiting game that finally ended when Boxing Canada's president told her the International Olympic Committee's Tripartite Commission had given her the wild-card spot.

"I was sleeping this morning at about 8 o'clock and I got a phone call from Pat Fiacco and he let me know," Spencer said via teleconference from her gym.

"I had a big smile on my face but you know what, I just went back to sleep," she added with a laugh.

Spencer could rest easy knowing her London ticket was booked. The news wasn't as good for fellow Canadians Mandy Bujold and Sandra Bizier, who were denied wild-card spots in the other two Olympic weight classes.

Big things were expected from Spencer this year since her resume is loaded and she won gold at the Pan American Games last fall in Mexico.

However, her remarkable consistency took a hit last April when she dropped a 27-14 decision to American Claressa Shields in the final of the American Boxing Confederation's continental championships. Sweden's Anna Laurell then stunned Spencer 18-11 at the world championships in China.

Spencer still managed to stay focused over the last few weeks even though her Olympic fate was in the IOC's hands.

"Since we got back, the No. 1 thing was getting back in the gym and training for the Olympics," she said. "It seems like it could have been a hard thing to do, but everything came together very well. We've been practising for this summer so I haven't lost any concentration at all."

Making things even tougher was a delay in the wild-card announcement. The decision was originally expected last week but was pushed back to Monday morning.

"I had a lot of peace about it," Spencer said. "I had no idea what the outcome would be but I felt good about it. I just felt like, 'You know what, everything is out of my hands.' "The only thing that I can do and the best thing to do right now is to stay focused on training for the Olympics.

"Because if that answer is a yes, I need to be ready. I don't need to be trying to pick up any slack or anything like that."

Fiacco said the recent world championships proved that the depth of competition in the sport has improved in recent years.

"Women's boxing has come a long way," he said. "It's not like there's one particular boxer out there that's dominating. It's any boxer can beat any given boxer on that particular day."

Spencer, a 27-year-old native of Wiarton, Ont., is the new face of CoverGirl and is featured prominently in a splashy ad campaign from the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"This is excellent news for Mary and great news for the 2012 Canadian Olympic team," Canadian chef de mission Mark Tewksbury said in a statement. "I wish her good luck in training and can’t wait to see her in the ring."

Spencer won a pair of tuneup fights in Quebec over the weekend and feels confident as she prepares for the start of Olympic competition on Aug. 5 at ExCeL London.

"I can't wait to really make the most and the best of the situation," she said.