(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.) – Four American boxers looking for their own place in history arrived in China today for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. The U.S. squad touched down in Shanghai at approximately 5:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET) before embarking on a three-hour bus ride to Nanjing. World Champions Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.), Jajaira Gonzalez (Glendora, Calif.), and Darmani Rock (Philadelphia, Pa.), Youth Olympic Games qualifier bronze medalist Martha Fabela (Oakland, Calif.) and coach Edward Rivas (Colorado Springs, Colo.) made the long journey from Colorado Springs to Nanjing together for the global event.
The U.S. squad closed their preparatory training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on Colorado Springs on Wednesday before departing on Thursday morning. They will now check in to the Youth Olympic Village, which houses over 6000 athletes and team officials during the 12-day event. The four American boxers will walk in the opening ceremony on Saturday at the Nanjing Olympic Center and have time to acclimate to their new surroundings and time zone before boxing competition begins on Saturday, August 23.
USA Boxing’s four athletes qualified for the event at the Youth World Championships/Youth Olympic Games Qualifier this past spring in Sofia, Bulgaria. More than 500 boxers vied for spots in the summer Youth Olympic Games, but only 78 boxers (60 male and 18 female) claimed berths in the event. USA Boxing sent only one athlete, heavyweight Joshua Temple, to the 2010 event so the four-boxer squad marks a significant increase in participation. Women’s boxing will be contested for the first time in Youth Olympic Games action in Nanjing, giving Gonzalez and Fabela their own piece of history.
As Temple failed to medal in the 2010 event, all four U.S. participants can win the first Youth Olympic Games medal for USA Boxing by earning spots on the podium. Stevenson, Gonzalez and Rock all enter the event as favorites in their respective weight divisions following their victories at the qualifying event in April.
The U.S. team members all enjoyed beneficial sparring from top youth and elite boxers with Stevenson receiving valuable work from Antonio Vargas (Kissimmee, Fla.) and Hector Tanajara (San Antonio, Texas) and multi-time national champion Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas) traveling to Colorado Springs to assist Rock. Gonzalez and Fabela had strong sparring partners as well with top youth athlete Ariel Arismendez (Tolleson, Ariz.) and elite boxers Queen Underwood (Seattle, Wash.) and Franchon Crews (Baltimore, Md.) working with the pair in preparation for the Youth Olympics.
Six boxers in each of the 13 Olympic weight divisions will compete in Youth Olympic Games boxing action August 23-27 at the Nanjing International Expo Centre. One bronze medal will be awarded in each weight division in Nanjing in contrast to two bronze medal winners in the Olympic Games.
The 2014 Youth Olympic Games will be the second edition of the summer event following the inaugural competition in 2010. Over 3500 athletes are slated to compete in 28 sports in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games during the 12 days of competition in Nanjing.