Mary Spencer, one of Canada’s best Olympic medal threats, may not even get to London

Mary Spencer has been one of Canada's most-promoted athletes in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics, and for good reason. Spencer has overcome a tough childhood that saw her grabbing deposited quarters from grocery cars so she could afford new shoes, and she's become one of the best female boxers in the world and picked up endorsements from the likes of cosmetics company CoverGirl. With women's boxing making its Olympic debut this summer, three-time world champion and nine-time Canadian champion Spencer (who's also coming off a gold medal at last fall's PanAm Games) looked like one of Canada's best medal hopes across sports. However, thanks to a surprising 18-11 upset from Sweden's Anna Laurell at the women's world championships this week and Laurell's subsequent 16-15 loss to Elena Vystropova of Azerbaijan in the semifinals Friday, Spencer may not even earn a spot in London.

Eight of the 12 spots in the 75-kilogram class are now filled, so Spencer's Olympic hopes now rest squarely on the shoulders of the International Olympic Committee's Tripartite Commission, a cross-sports group composed of representatives from the IOC, the Association of National Olympic Committees and the respective sports federations involved. It looks like that group will be handing out the remaining four berths. However, there's no clear timeline as to when their decision will be made; the only word we have is that it will be "after a meeting between the IOC and AIBA, which has been slated for early June."

There's also no guarantee that Spencer will get one of those berths; the Tripartite Commission's mission statement is "to strengthen the principle of
universal representation at the Games by allowing a number of NOCs without or with few
athletes qualified to participate in the Olympic Games", so that would seem to apply more to developing countries without a lot of top athletes than to Canada. Moreover, while Spencer is AIBA (the federation responsible for Olympic boxing)'s top-ranked female pugilist at 75 kg, plenty of others without qualification spots at the moment outperformed her at their world championships, including Laurell and fellow losing semifinalist Nadezda Torlopova. It's not a sure thing that AIBA will be firmly in Spencer's corner. That's unfortunate, as she's become one of the most prominent female boxers worldwide. Here's what she told Yahoo! Sports Canada about women's boxing making it to the Olympics in January:

If Spencer doesn't make it to the Olympics, that will be a significant loss for her, for Canada and for the Canadian Olympic Committee. She represented one of Canada's best gold-medal hopes this summer and a great chance to really get women's boxing on the map in its first Olympics. Moreover, the COC has already heavily invested in promoting her, choosing her as one of their featured athletes in their new ad campaign. Her COC video doesn't seem to be posted yet, but CTV's already tabbed her as one of their featured athletes. She's been a large focus of media attention elsewhere as well. Here's what a typical training day for her looked like in January:

Spencer's story is a terrific one, and it's going to remain inspiring regardless of what happens. Unless she somehow lands a Tripartite Commission berth, though, it doesn't look like her story will have a happy ending at this year's Olympics.