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Army's 'Big O' Set to Go Boxing Down Under

By Tim Hipps
National Guard Bureau

SYDNEY, Australia, Sept. 19, 2000 – Now that he's a resident of the Olympic Village, Staff Sgt. Olanda Anderson says the pressure has been lifted from his Olympic boxing mission.

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Sitting beneath the Olympic Rings, Staff Sgt. Olanda Anderson, 27, answers journalists' questions during a press conference Sept. 13 at the Sydney Olympic Park. Anderson, a light heavyweight boxer, is the first Army boxer to make the Olympic team since 1988. Photo by Tech Sgt. Rick Sforza, USAF.

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"I sat down and talked with my coach and he said to just take one fight at a time," said Anderson, the first U.S. Army boxer to make the U.S. Olympic Team since 1988. "I just want to come here and compete and do well. I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself."

Anderson, 27, of Sumter, S.C., is a five-time armed forces champion and the only married member of the 2000 U.S. boxing team. He will make his 178-pound Olympic debut Sept. 24.

"I'm 100 percent," Anderson said Wednesday. "I'm in great shape. Everything went well in training camp. I'm ready to get started."

Anderson has a shot at joining the elite Olympic company of eight former American medalists from the light-heavyweight ranks, including Cassius Clay (gold, 1960), Leon Spinks (gold, 1976) and Evander Holyfield (bronze, 1984). Antonio Tarver, bronze medalist in 1996 at Atlanta completes the club Anderson aspires to join.

"I know I'm one of the best light-heavyweights in the world," Anderson said. "And I'm boxing as a representative of every soldier enlisted in the U.S. Army. The Army has been very supportive of me."

Anderson is five victories away from striking gold Down Under. He's quick to admit that he must get extraordinarily psyched for the most competitive test of his life.

"I'm one of those people who's got to get into another world," Anderson said of his mental preparation. "I must psych myself up to a whole 'nother level. That's when I box my best. If I can just get my mindset right, I think I'll do very well."

Anderson's greatest psychological advantage in Sydney may be having Army World Class Athlete Program head coach Staff Sgt. Basheer Abdullah by his side as Team USA's technical adviser.

"I'm one of the only guys who can push his buttons," Abdullah said without hesitation. "We've been in all his wars together and he knows that I'm on his side no matter what happens. I think that will be very important to him.

"Personally, I think he's going to surprise a lot of people who've jumped off his bandwagon since he lost at the [U.S. Olympic Trials] box-offs. That stage was too big for him and he let it go to his head, the coach said. "But we've got all that in check now. Even though this is a bigger event, we're not talking so much about winning it all. Olanda had one heck of a great training camp. He's ready to go."

(Tim Hipps is the Army Community and Family Support Center Olympics correspondent in Sydney, Australia.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageStaff Sgt. Olanda Anderson, 27, is the first Army boxer to make the Olympic team since 1988. He's scheduled to debut in Sydney Sept. 24 in the light- heavyweight class. Photo by Tech Sgt. Rick Sforza, USAF.   
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