Peter Westbrook, the most successful U.S. fencer in recent times, learned to survive with his fists, growing up in the projects in Newark, NJ If you live in the projects, you can’t communicate verbally. Talking goes out the window. You start to use their language I had a lot of anger, even when I started fencing, Westbrook said. It was a young man’s anger, like I was after something too much. That anger drove him to 13 U.S. national saber championships and he became the first American fencer to win a medal in the Olympics. That violent world took Westbrook’s mother,
Twelve-time all star Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons one of the best examples of an athlete who had to fight for everything he achieved in his career.
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Mariko, who was beaten to death in 1994 on the Newark bus she took every day for most of her life. She was identified by a trading card found on her of her son in his white fencer’s uniform.
U.S. sprinter Gwen Torrence was from a broken, violent home and grew up lonely in the East Lake Meadows projects in Atlanta where everybody protected their territory and she learned to fight the boys.
Torrence possessed the mortar that builds great athletes: neurosis and a need for individual expression. What’s more, her mother had instilled an up-from-the-projects work ethic, wrote Joe Drape in the Atlanta Constitution. I’m an angry little girl. I always have thought that anything anyone did to me was intentional, said Torrence, who accused her rivals of using drugs in the Barcelona Olympics. I have got a wall around me that I’m trying to bring down. I’m trying. Eventually, she became the world’s fastest woman.
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