LONDON: American female boxer Queen Underwood's desire to win Olympic gold is not just fuelled by her competitive instincts but by years of pain inflicted by someone she should have been able to trust – her father.
The 28-year-old five-time American lightweight champion endured, along with her older sister Hazzauna, years of sexual abuse by their father Azzad until he was jailed for seven years – but released after six – as both girls testified against him.
They both, however, said they did not want him to be jailed.
Queen – who was christened Quanitta but prefers the nickname – prefers not to dwell on what was inflicted on her by her father, who to the outside world appeared a doting dad, and was a respected member of a local church.
However, in an interview with the New York Times earlier this year she revealed details of her ordeal.
“I would lock my arms and squeeze my legs tight,” she said, adding that she had thought of hiding a knife and stabbing him.
While Hazzauna has gone on to get married, the years of misery went on for Queen, who tried to commit suicide and applied for the American airforce but then failed to turn up, preferring to party and drink her memories away.
But finally, aged 19, everything changed for her thanks to discovering boxing in a gym in Seattle.
From there she has not looked back, her physical strength helped no end by her day job as a pipefitter, and her morale boosted when despite failing to qualify by right she was given a spot by the sport's global governing body.
Queen has been dealt a tough draw, as she will face Briton Natasha Jonas with the winner fighting four-time world champion Katie Taylor of Ireland.
However, Queen pushed Taylor all the way in the 2010 world championship semi-final, when she came back from a double-digit deficit to floor her opponent and hold a one-point lead going into the final 16 seconds, only for the redoubtable Irish boxer to claw it back and win.
Underwood said her achievements at the Games would be a great example to those many other children who have suffered similar abuse.
“I would close my eyes and just dream about having a different life, because I thought that if I had this thing, this success, I'd feel like I was at a point of starting over,” she told the NYT.
“That dream carried me through a lot of days. I can be an example. I am a survivor of child abuse, and I became strong and independent.”