|HOME | SPORTS | OLYMPICS | NEWS|
September 9, 2000
Gold is matter of life and death for boxerAlan Baldwin
Like most athletes, American bantamweight Clarence Vinson has been thinking about what he will do if he wins Olympic gold.
But none are likely to share his particular vision -- a medal draped across a tombstone while, with his daughter sitting at his feet, he talks to his dead brother about his Australian adventure.
Vinson is the man his team mates have dubbed "The Untouchable", a nickname earned by his ability to duck and dive in the ring and avoid big blows.
But it could just as easily be because he escaped the bullets that killed friends and family over the years.
Many boxers come from troubled backgrounds, brutal upbringings and violence-scarred streets and Vinson, the three-times U.S. champion who intends to turn professional after the Olympics, has seen more anguish than most.
He lost his older brother and a cousin to the muggers' bullets and, in the words of a U.S. team profile, has in his 22 years seen "more people slain and more people hurt than you care to imagine."
In Sydney, Vinson is not afraid to admit that his thoughts tend as much towards the dead as the living.
At home, he carries obituary notices and motivational messages in his kit bag. In Australia, he has them in his Bible and has also the names of his brother and cousin written on his boxing boots and tattooed on his arm.
"I just use them like little wings," he said.
The dead are still very much alive for him.
"Even though people say they are dead I know they are still with me, watching over me and behind me 100 percent," he said, speaking slowly as he sat on a bench in the area of the Athletes' Village open to the media.
His muted tone belied the intensity of his words.
"I feel as though every time I am training or running, they are right there with me," he said.
"If I win the gold -- I was thinking about that today -- the first thing that I will do is go get my daughter when I get back to DC," he said.
"She never got a chance to meet my brother but I will take her to his grave site and I will take my gold medal and put it around his tomb.
"And I'll just sit there and talk to him and just tell him about the experience which I had over here."
Vinson said his brother was held up in a robbery and shot dead outside Washington's RFK stadium.
"He helped me out a lot, he motivated me a lot to do the best because he wanted to see me do good. I always looked up to him and I never wanted to let him down," he said.
"I know that he's not here but I know that he's looking over me and I know that he's happy."
Boxing has long played up its redemptive qualities and trumpeted the social virtues when faced with allegations of controversy and corruption.
But it has in Vinson a committed believer. To him, it might even have been a matter of life and death.
"Boxing was pretty much like a saviour to me because the days and hours when I was in a gym training and stuff gave me something to do," he said.
"When I came home from the gym I would find that maybe one of my friends had just got locked up or just got shot.
"I was glad I was in the gym."
Mail your comments
TRAVEL | NEWSLINKS
ROMANCE | WEDDING | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | FREE MESSENGER | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK