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Mark Leduc
(May 4, 1964 - July 22, 2009) Canada

Mark Leduc



Olympic silver medal-winning boxer at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, Mark came out in 1994 in the TV documentary For the Love of the Game, one of the few boxers ever to do so. He was Grand Marshall of Toronto Pride '99 (with Savoy Howe); after turning professional, he became the Canadian superlightweight champion; now working as a sports program administrator and volunteer with AIDS organizations in Toronto.

Leduc worked in the film industry. Fittingly, he didn't act. He didn't occupy the spotlight. Instead, he built sets and assembled stages. He's was working in an abandoned General Electric factory, where he built a replica of a Brooklyn townhouse for an American television series, and a plywood bedroom for its teenaged hero.

Leduc was not a hero, at least not until 1992, when he won a silver medal for Canada at the Olympics in Barcelona. Before that singular accomplishment, he was only a tough kid. To his close friends, he was a hard man who happened to be gay. By the time he was 12 years old, Leduc was certain of only two things: his sexuality and his deep love of boxing. A friend invited him along to a gym in Toronto's east end, and it didn't take long before he was hooked.

It was, in hindsight, a way for an unsettled teen to compensate. "People don't really equate being a fighter with being gay," he sad. "I guess I did use it as a mask." A few years later, Leduc found himself hooked on other vices. One of six children - he had a twin sister; his lone brother died in a car wreck - Leduc left home when his parents separated. He was about 15 years old when he went to live on the streets. Like boxing, rebellion served to cloak what was a difficult reality.

And a young Leduc then went to prison. He robbed a jewelry store at gunpoint. He had been told by an accomplice that it was an insurance scam: the owner wanted the place jacked, Leduc's buddy explained, and hired them as thugs to make it look real. Leduc grabbed the gold and gems, passed them over, pocketed a cash fee, and was picked up by the police a few weeks later. He was sentenced to over six years in prison, to be served at Collins Bay Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario.

After about 18 months inside, a guard named Harry took a shine to Leduc, and tried to secure him day passes so he could train in a real gym. The first application was rejected by the warden, but Leduc was ultimately awarded 72 hours a month in the outside world. For Leduc, the outside world consisted largely of Kingston's amateur boxing club. He used his "free" time sparingly: an hour to train here, a couple of hours to train there, a few more hours for a fight. He began to acquire a smart amateur record. By the time he hung up the headgear, he had won 184 bouts, and lost only 26.

The 1984 Olympics came and went while Leduc languished in prison. He was released in time for the 1988 Summer Games trials, but failed to earn a spot on the team that was to go to South Korea. Montreal's Howard Grant - a known quantity, whereas Leduc had appeared on the scene suddenly - was Canada's representative at 140 pounds. Leduc decided to stick with the game for another four years. After winning both the national championship, and the gold medal at a preliminary international meet, Leduc was on his way to Barcelona. It would prove to be an interesting trip.

Just before the finals, however, Leduc developed tendonitis in his left shoulder. Though he is a southpaw, he fought right-handed, and relied heavily on the left jab. He also had a mosquito bite on his leg, and it became infected. Leduc dunked himself in a hot tub to cut weight, but so had hundreds of boxers and wrestlers before him. The water was dirty. The bite had to be lanced, and Leduc was struck by fevers and chills.

The Olympic boxing hero decided that it was time to retire from professional boxing and, at the same time, admit to the world that he is a homosexual. "I wanted to do it myself, rather than always hear people spreading rumors about me,'' Leduc said last night. "It's a big relief.'' In a candid interview with the Sun, Leduc also said that he wanted to help shatter the stereotype of homosexuals as "sissies'' and to show that homosexual athletes can be positive role models for young people.

Leduc worked for and volunteered with the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation, later becoming a set-builder and construction worker in the film industry. He died in Toronto - he had collapsed in the sauna of a local hotel, and doctors suggested that his death may have resulted from heat stroke.


Source: from an article by Chris Jones of the Ontario National Post 22 June 1999 - et alii

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