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The Globe and Mail

Canada’s Spencer receives Olympic wild card

Canada's female boxer and Olympic hopeful Mary Spencer poses for a portrait after a training session in Windsor, March 21, 2012.


According to Mary Spencer's training partner, the three-time world champion isn't just acting cool when she says the stress of an uncertain Olympic fate never got to her.

Spencer held razor-sharp focus and kept on training, Justin Hocko said, despite everyone at their boxing club being peppered with constant queries of: "Any news yet?"

On Monday, there was an answer. When women's boxing makes its Olympic debut in London, Spencer, a native of Windsor, Ont., will be there.

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The International Olympic Committee and International Boxing Association together chose 14 wild cards to fill out the 2012 Summer Games women's roster of 36 (over three weight classes). Spencer was named to a spot in the 75-kilogram group for the Pan American region.

"I had a lot of peace about it," she said at a news conference at the Windsor Amateur Boxing Club. "I had no idea what the outcome would be, but I felt really good about it. It was out of my hands and the only thing I could do was stay focused on training for the Olympics. I needed to be ready."

Spencer's bid was in jeopardy last month, when she lost out early at the world championships, the lone qualifying event for the 2012 Summer Games.

Despite the long and agonizing wait, Spencer said the suspense didn't affect her. The 27-year-old got the news by phone early Monday morning – and went right back to sleep.

Her coach, Charlie Stewart, kept her Olympic training chugging along like business as usual. She said the situation has reminded her of when she first started boxing at 17, and she had to prove herself. She feels like she is in that position once again, now going into the Olympics as a wild card.

"I feel like I'm being given a second chance to prove myself," said Spencer, who entered the 2012 world championships as the top-ranked boxer in her class. "And I can't wait to make the best of the situation.

"It's definitely a reminder that there are a lot of great boxers out there in the world and this is not an easy thing to accomplish. There are only 12 women boxers in the 75-kilogram weight class getting this opportunity, and I'm so thankful to be one of them."

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The 2011 Pan American Games gold medalist won two exhibition fights last weekend against German champ Andrea Strohmayer, the Canadian's first bouts since her brief appearance at the worlds.

"Mary is amazing at keeping composure. She was never sure she was going to the Olympics, but she never stopped training like she was," said Hocko, a 19-year-old who didn't qualify for London. "She has such focus and she is so good with media and how she presents herself. Not every athlete is presentable like she always is, especially in a month like that when she was waiting around for such big news."

In the lead-up to the London Olympics, the 5-foot-11 fighter has been the star of several ad campaigns and national news stories. Twitter was abuzz Monday with the news, and the Canadian Olympic Committee released a mini-documentary on Spencer that has been in the works.

"We are so pleased that the IOC and AIBA has selected Mary," said Pat Fiacco, president of Boxing Canada. "No question as a three-time world champion and someone that has created a significant interest and spotlight on women's boxing around the world, it is greatly deserved."

Another big name in women's boxing also earned a wild-card berth: Queen Underwood (60 kg), who has been featured across American news outlets not only for her ring skills but for her survival story of sexual abuse as a child.

Canadians seeking entries in the other women's weight classes – Sandra Bizier of Stoneham, Que. (60 kg) and Mandy Bujold of Kitchener, Ont., (51 kg) – were not given wild cards.

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Two Canadian men qualified this spring: Custio Clayton of Dartmouth and Simon Kean of Trois-Rivières.

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