Olympic boxer shares success with Pershing students

February 23, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

The Olympic rings hung from the ceiling of Pershing Elementary School's multipurpose room yesterday over some 300 squirming students who were waiting to greet a real Olympian -- 1988 boxing gold medalist Andrew Maynard.

But first there was an introduction from U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat who represents the 3rd District. He told the youngsters from Pershing and West Meade elementary schools that the light heavyweight boxer "represents someone who stayed in school and stayed off drugs."

"It's not often we get to see someone who performed in the Olympics, and performed very, very well," Mr. Cardin said.

And a videotape of highlights from the 1988 Summer Olympics, including shots of Mr. Maynard on his way to the gold. And at last, Mr. Maynard stepping out from behind a curtain dressed in an Olympic sweat suit with his gold medal draped around his neck and a grin wreathing his face.

"How you-all doing?" he asked.

And, the kids yelled back, "Hi."

Mr. Maynard visited as part of a national outreach program developed by the Olympic Committee to demonstrate the importance of staying in school and staying off drugs.

For nearly an hour Mr. Maynard, 28, talked to the students and answered their questions.

He told of growing up in a "tough" neighborhood in Suitland, Prince George's County, one of 13 children. And he told them that several of his brothers were involved in criminal activities and some of his sisters became unwed teen-age mothers.

But Mr. Maynard said his father, Theodore, who was raising the children alone, continually impressed on them the importance of staying in school and making something of their lives. He recalled how his father once told him that none of his children had given him a reason to be proud, something to brag about over a beer with his buddies.

At the age of 21, Andrew Maynard, then a soldier, began training to box in the Olympics and give Theodore Maynard something to brag about to his buddies.

"I won this medal for my father as a token of my loyalty for him, for being such a terrific father," Mr. Maynard said. "I gave this medal to him."

He got it back last year, after his father died of leukemia.

The students asked Mr. Maynard about nearly everything, from steroid use to his marital status.

"Are you afraid you might get brain damage from getting hit in the head too many times," one young man asked.

"They have to hit me first," the boxer replied.

"How did you get into fighting," asked a young girl.

It was playground bullies who pushed him around the basketball court when he was a youth, Mr. Maynard explained. He managed to slug a few of the taller boys once, then take off running.

But before long, he tired of running and learned how to fight, he recalled.

"I learned how to fight to defend myself," he said. "Then, I started beating them up."

Now, the former Olympian turned professional boxer spends six hours a day training in preparation for his fights. But his memories of the Olympics and his father are never far away.

"I have my medal hanging on two pins on the wall," he said. "And, every time I see that medal, I see my father."

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