Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network)-
Andre Ward just wants to keep doing what he?s been doing since 1998: winning.
And if the 20-year-old U.S. light heavyweight has his way, the streak of victories that began when he was a 13-year-old novice will continue all the way to the gold medal stand in Athens.
"I've been dreaming about this, and the dream's been getting closer and closer. I'm very excited, but I'm not satisfied at all yet," Ward said, sitting confidently atop his podium at the Olympics Media Summit in May.
"You have to be careful that your main focus is not to just make the team, but to go to the Olympics, represent your country and win a gold medal. Your primary focus has to be 'I haven't done anything yet. Let me stay focused and let me go get this gold medal.'"
Ward and his U.S. teammates aren't among the favorites to medal in Greece, but he's convinced they have the talent to do so. And if someone wants to keep him off the medal stand, they'll have to do what nobody's been able to do in six years...beat him.
"I'm not worried about any of us," Ward said. "We all have the talent to win a gold medal. We just can't slip up. We can't lose focus."
|Andre Ward and his U.S. teammates aren't among the favorites to medal in Greece, but he's convinced they have the talent to do so. |
To help him keep focused, Ward thinks of his father, an amateur high school boxer that he looked up to as "second to God" when he was growing up in San Francisco. Frank Ward lost his love of boxing, as the younger Ward tells it, and passed away in 2002 without ever getting to see his son make an Olympic push.
"He went astray. He lost his lost his love of it. He really believed he could have been great," Ward said. "He told me some of his war stories, which I loved to hear. I loved to fight, and I had the desire to be the best at what I did. My father said 'if you are going to do this, you're going to be the best at it.'"
So Ward, now a married father of two, took to boxing when he was 9 1/2 - in lieu of a life on the streets - and really focused his energy on the sport at the age of 10. Three years later, he would lose for the last time.
"I committed to do it, and here I am today. It goes to show that a lot of hard work will pay off in the end," Ward noted.
Ward also committed to football as a kid, and was even recruited by the University of Oregon. But he chose a life in boxing instead, something his peers couldn't understand.
"But I was good, so they couldn't say anything," Ward said. "They made jokes sometimes. But my future [in football] wasn't as clear as it was in boxing.
"My father once told me 'never read your press clippings, cause you never let someone tell you you're greater than what you are. You get intoxicated with winning.?"
That's for sure.
By Gerard Gallagher, Olympic Contributing Editor