After suffering a stunning upset in her opening bout at the women's world championships, Canadian boxer Mary Spencer must wait as others decide her Olympic fate.
The three-time world champ and 2011 Pan American Games gold medalist –considered a medal favourite this summer in the 75-kilogram weight class – lost 18-11 Monday to Anna Laurell of Sweden at the lone qualifying event for the London Games.
Since the native of Windsor, Ont., didn't capture an automatic Olympic berth, she must now cross her fingers and wait to see how the event in Qinhuangdao, China, unfolds.
"Anna boxed great," Spencer said in a statement, "and I hope she does well in this tournament."
Indeed, Laurell's success now holds great bearing on Spencer's chances of qualifying for London, where women's boxing is making its Olympic debut. According to an official from the International Boxing Association (known by its French initials, AIBA), if Laurell wins the 75-kg title, the 27-year-old Spencer is sure to qualify.
Laurell won world championships in 2001 and 2005.
Eight automatic berths will be awarded in each of the three Olympic weight classes based on performances at the worlds, divided specifically among the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania. All of the women from the Americas in the 75-kg class have already lost out of the tournament, which is now in its round of 16.
The two automatic berths for Spencer's weight class earmarked for the Americas will be given to boxers who were eliminated by the highest-ranked finisher in this tournament.
If Spencer does not get one of those two berths, there is still one more chance: An additional fighter will be selected from each class by the International Olympic Committee Tripartite Commission after a meeting between AIBA and the IOC in early June. The AIBA official noted such berths are usually awarded to nations who did not qualify many athletes, thus helping the growth of the sport in that country.
"Hopefully, I will still qualify," Spencer told The Canadian Press. "It's very important in times like these that we get the best out of the situation. I see it as an extra week to prepare for the Olympics that I wouldn't have had I remained in the tournament."
Canadians vying for spots in the other two Olympic weight classes were eliminated last Sunday in their first-round bouts: Mandy Bujold (51 kg) of Kitchener, Ont., and Sandra Bizier (60 kg) of Stoneham, Que.
Another heavy favourite, American Claressa Shields, who recently beat Spencer at a continental tournament in Cornwall, Ont., also suffered a surprising upset Monday in her second fight of the tournament. Shields, a usually high-scoring 17-year-old suffered her first career loss, 14-8 to Savannah Marshall of England. Shields is also now waiting to learn her 2012 Olympic fate.
"I am very surprised to see that the boxers from the Americas didn't advance further in the 75 Kg class, since they are such strong athletes, but the fighters who beat them were simply better in those particular fights," said Pat Fiacco, President of Boxing Canada, who is in China. "It's a really tough thing, but that's boxing -- you only have to be better than your opponent for those 12 minutes in the ring."
Fiacco said Spencer will remain in China through the tournament, training with her Canadian teammates, likely watching the bouts and waiting to learn her Olympic fate.
Spencer has been the star of several recent commercials and advertisements, including spots for CoverGirl makeup and the Canadian Olympic Committee's "Give Your Everything" campaign. She is also the only Canadian boxer receiving funding from the Own the Podium program.
Spencer entered the tournament in China as the world's top-ranked boxer in her weight class.