Maya Lawrence, Olympic Medalist: Exceeding Expectations in Sports & Life
By Kathy Zucker
Pat Lawrence just wanted to help her daughter Maya get into college when she encouraged her to go out for extracurricular activities.
- Maya and Pat Lawrence. Credit: Kathy Zucker
Instead, she wound up with a child who is an Olympic medalist.
We all know the road to an Olympic medal is long, costly, arduous, and fraught with setbacks. This is not an article about the two ACL tears that Maya Lawrence endured leading up to the 2008 Olympics or about the ten years of financial sacrifice and physical separation from her family while she trained in France as they kept the home fires burning in New Jersey.
It’s also not about her becoming the first African-American woman to medal in women’s epee fencing. At age 32.
Instead, it is about a mother encouraging her daughter to give herself an edge in life.
As a ninth grader, Maya Lawrence was an accomplished musician. A student at Teaneck High School, she played the flute for the marching band. So her mother started looking into colleges with good marching band programs since Maya’s skills would give her an edge in the application process.
Maya joined clubs and played baseball with her dad, a local sports referee, but it wasn’t until tenth grade that she found fencing, the sport that came to dominate her life. And the passion did not take over until after she graduated from Princeton University with dual majors in politics and African studies.
After earning multiple All-American honors in college, Maya knew she had a shot at an Olympic team. As a middle-class kid from suburban Teaneck, New Jersey, she also knew she needed to earn a living. And the best way to get answers? Go to people who have been there.
Maya spoke to several American and Canadian Olympians and discovered that teaching worked well in conjunction with Olympic training and travel to international competitions. After earning a Masters degree in education from Columbia University with a specialty in ESL (English as a Second Language), she headed to France and its top-notch fencing program.
There, she would work and support herself for ten years before making an Olympic team. Nobody expected more of her, but Maya has a tendency to exceed expectations – during the London 2012 Olympic Games, she came through for her team in the bronze medal match by overcoming a deficit to give the Americans a lead that proved decisive in their historic win over first-ranked Russia.
Follow Maya’s journey at Facebook. You can meet her mom, Pat Lawrence, and hold her Olympic medal on Saturday, October 27 in Hoboken, NJ. Details are here.
Kathy Zucker, serial entrepreneur and mother of three young children, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. See what Kathy is up to at her blog and on Twitter @KathyZucker.
Tags: activities, athletics, fencing, olympics