Mary Spencer won't have to look far for extra motivation in her quest for Olympic gold — it will be written around her wrist.
The three-time world boxing champion, who will be gunning for gold when the women's event makes it Olympic debut in London, suffered her first loss in more than a year last weekend — and the timing, she said, couldn't be better.
Spencer was beaten by American Claressa Shields at the American Boxing Confederation's continental championships, going down to the 17-year-old by a score of 27-14.
“I'm gunning for her,” Spencer said, with a devilish smile. “She is fairly new on the scene, but she's very talented. I will have her name inscribed on a bracelet, I'll be wearing it around my wrist for the next three months.
The 27-year-old, who was born in Wiarton, Ont., and grew up in Windsor, Ont., believes in picking out the positives rather than dwelling on negatives and sees the loss as a good thing, coming with just over 100 days to go to the start of the Games.
“For me to lose at this tournament, I feel like if there was any good time to lose it's now ... my coach Charlie (Stewart) always said ‘L' stands for ‘learning.’
“A loss is the best learning experience you can ever have, so I really took the positive out of the situation and felt like: perfect timing, now I'm ready, I'm going for gold.
“I always was, but I feel like no better situation could have happened. If I had won, it's just back to your training and back to every day things. You have to have something special going into training for the Olympics and this is that special little push that I needed.”
Spencer won the 2005, 2008 and 2010 world championships and is considered one of Canada's best bets for a gold in London.
Spencer and her sport have suddenly been thrust in the spotlight, which sits fine with the boxer.
She's the new face of a CoverGirl campaign, joining the likes of Drew Barrymore and Ellen Degeneres who've graced the cosmetic company's advertising.
And while she's a fierce fighter in the ring — a flurry of ferocious fists and powerful legs — she said she has a softer side too, making her partnership with CoverGirl a natural fit.
“It's kind of funny, a lot of people say ‘You go after people in that ring.’ But what the brand stands for is being strong and confident and the beauty that they push is inner and outer beauty, so that's where I come in,” Spencer said, in an interview at a downtown hotel to unveil the campaign. “The partnership makes sense because I love what I do, I'm passionate about what I'm doing, I'm confident in my field.
“But how does it match up? I'm boxing all day long, I definitely don't wear makeup when I'm fighting, but at the end of the day I come home and I'm a woman who likes to go out and get done up once in awhile.
“Sometimes it's more fun because I spend so much time in my workout gear, so when I do get done up, it's like woah, what just happened there?“’ she added, laughing.
Spencer, who captured gold at the Pan American Games last fall in Mexico and carried Canada's flag at the closing ceremonies, knows she'll be in the spotlight as one of Canada's top athletes to watch in London.
Fortunately, she's become comfortable there.
“When I was a teenager I could not even handle speeches in front of my friends, not one bit, it was the worst,” Spencer said. “But a long time ago, I was a little nervous about a speaking engagement and one of my mentors said ‘Mary, you should never talk about something that you don't know anything about, but when you've earned the right to speak about something, you should share it.’
“I feel like I've been doing this for 10 years, I've put a lot of effort into it, this is my life, so to be able to talk about that, I feel like I should be comfortable, I've earned the right to talk about my journey and I should want to share it because a lot of times I have experiences for a reason and it's not to keep it to myself and enjoy in my own privacy, but to share with people.”
Spencer didn't plan to make any major changes to her training on the heels of her loss last weekend.
“Because what we've been doing has been working,” Spencer said. “My coach and I are always adjusting. So not necessarily changing anything, but making those adjustments to adapt for the next tournament.”
Spencer hasn't officially qualified for the London Games. The women's world championships in Qinhuangdao, China, which begin May 9, is the Olympic qualifying event. It will be Spencer's only competition between now and the Games, which open July 27.