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No American has captured a gold medal in the middleweight (75kg) division since Michael Spinks at the 1976 Games, the longest drought in any weight class for the United States. 24-year-old Terrell Gausha [pronounced guh-SHAY] is the perfect man to reverse the curse.

Despite being born and raised in Cleveland, a city synonymous with prolonged sports disappointment, Gausha has ties to Olympic success. His hometown of Glenville served as the incubator for two legendary track and field gold medalists, Jesse Owens and Harrison Dillard. An athletic youngster, Gausha never raced, focusing on basketball, football and wrestling before trying his hand at boxing at the age of 10.

He began to take the sport seriously at the age of 12, boxing in local tournaments throughout his teenage years. At the age of 20 he lost in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Golden Gloves, then in the Round of 16 at the 2008 and 2009 editions of the tournament.

Undeterred, Gausha entered the 2009 National Championships, the premier tournament for U.S. amateur boxing. In the finals he beat Jesse Hart, and the victory made him eligible to compete at the 2009 World Championships. Gausha lost to Colombia’s Alex Theran, 12-6, in his first bout, and then left amateur boxing completely after losing in the finals of the 2010 Golden Gloves to Ronald Ellis, 3-2.

“I was depressed after that because I always wanted to win the Golden Gloves,” said Gausha. “It was one of my goals, and I felt I got cheated. That discouraged me a little bit so I told myself I was going to take some time off from amateur boxing.”

Gausha stayed true to his word, leaving for the World Series of Boxing (WSB), a pro-style circuit that pays boxers but allows them to retain their amateur status. Change proved needed for Gausha, who competed for the Los Angeles Matadors and compiled a 5-2 record between 2010-2012, including a victory over 2007 Pan American Champion, Pedro Lima. Still, when the possibility to go to the Olympics arose, Gausha jumped.

Jesse Hart failed to qualify the middleweight class at 2011 World Championships, and under new USA boxing rules, Hart was not guaranteed to represent the U.S. at the May/April Last Qualifying Event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That honor would go to the winner of the March 2012 National Championships, and Gausha was prepared to enter.

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