Olympics-Boxing-U.S. Marine determined to keep team spirits up

LONDON, July 31 Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:44pm EDT

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LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - His London Olympics may have only lasted nine minutes but Jamel Herring will not be getting down about it.

A veteran Marine of two tours of duty in Iraq, the U.S. team boxing captain knows he has his men to think about.

The 26-year-old sergeant, who served as a field electrician during the Iraq war, is just part of the military backbone of an American team led by officer Basheer Abdullah, head coach of the army's boxing programme for 15 years.

Herring saw many friends die during his service but also lost his daughter to cot death shortly after his return, something that was at the forefront of his mind when went down on bended knee upon entering the ring on Tuesday.

"Everybody back at home knows what I've been through, I've been through a lot of ups and downs," the circumspect light-welterweight told reporters after his 19-9 loss to Kazakhstan's Daniyar Yeleussinov.

"From the first time I stepped in the ring to the last, I was thinking about her (his daughter Ariyanah), my team, my country, the Marine corps. A lot was going through my head."

A native of Long Island, just east of Manhattan, Herring was in high school when New York's World Trade Centre was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.

School friends lost relatives in the attacks, prompting the then 15-year-old to decide to enlist.

He does not know yet whether he will re-enlist when his service ends in a few months, although a harder question to answer is whether it means more to be an Olympian or to have served for his country.

"I was a proud Marine and proud to defend my country," he said. Being a New Yorker and so close to the 9/11 incident in high school, I wanted just to do something good in life. Make something out of myself.

"I appreciated the both of them," he added, referring to the Olympics.

"I wish I could have done better but not everyone gets to the Olympics so when you do, it's a big accomplishment on your resume. I'll always be an Olympian."

With seven American male boxers and three females still chasing medals, their captain knows he still has plenty of work to do in London.

"It hurts, no one likes to get beat but I've got to keep my head up, I'm team captain. If I'm down basically my team is down," he said.

"I don't want nobody to feel down, I fought hard. I don't want them to feel bad for one man, one man's gone down, but we've still got out whole team." (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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