Queen Underwood headed to London
After a few weeks of uneasy waiting, Queen Underwood learned she'll get to fight for an Olympic medal.
USA Boxing said Monday that the 28-year-old lightweight from Seattle has been awarded a berth in the first Olympic women's boxing tournament in London.
Three-time world champion Mary Spencer of Canada also received an at-large berth.
Underwood is a five-time national champion who won the first U.S. Olympic boxing team trials in February. But she dropped a one-point decision to Norway's Ingrid Egner in the preliminary round of the world championships in China last month, falling just short of Olympic qualification and jeopardizing her berth in London's 12-fighter lightweight field.
Underwood finally learned Monday morning she had been chosen for an Olympic spot by AIBA, the international governing body of amateur boxing. The news reduced her to tears.
"This past three weeks almost destroyed me mentally," Underwood said. "All this pressure, everything since China, has been so hard. ... I now have the chance to write my own story and my winning the gold medal is now going to be the headline. That's what I owe to everybody and to myself. I can't wait to get in the ring, I really can't. It is going to be way different this time."
Underwood started boxing nine years ago after becoming fascinated by the sport's one-on-one competition. After overcoming sexual abuse during a difficult childhood, she worked in construction while training for national championships and Pan-Am Games trips.
When women's boxing was added to the Olympic program in 2009, she focused on London -- and after one misstep, she was still rewarded.
Underwood's selection means the American team will have a fighter in each of the three weight classes when women's boxing is contested for the first time as an Olympic event. Flyweight Marlen Esparza and middleweight Claressa Shields earned Olympic spots at the world championships after winning the trials with Underwood.
"We are thrilled for Queen, and believe that she absolutely deserved to be in London," said Anthony Bartkowski, USA Boxing's executive director. "She has been an outstanding representative for the sport since her first national championship win in 2007, and the team feels complete now that she will be joining Marlen and Claressa in London."
The 36-fighter field should be completed soon as news of AIBA's decisions trickles out. Russia, Britain and the American team will have fighters in all three weight classes.
Spencer, a 27-year-old middleweight from Windsor, Ontario, also fell short of qualification at the world championships after being touted as an Olympic medal favorite. Boxing Canada announced she had received a berth Monday.
"I feel even stronger and more focused right now," Spencer said in a statement. "The route to London was not as expected, but I feel I've learned a lot, and I will take those lessons with me on the final leg of the journey."
Canada's other two Olympic hopefuls -- flyweight Mandy Bujold and middleweight Sandra Bizier -- weren't selected for London.
"This is excellent news for Mary," said Mark Tewksbury, the Canadian team's chef de mission. "I wish her good luck in training and can't wait to see her in the ring. I feel for Mandy and Sandra, who did not receive a quota spot. I know that they will bounce back from this disappointment."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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