Claressa Shields, 17, from Flint, Michigan, today won the Olympic middleweight gold medal in boxing, defeating Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova by 19 – 12.
2012 is the first year that women’s boxing has been featured at the Olympics, but not only is Shields the first woman to win boxing gold, she is also the only member of the 12-member American boxing team to win a gold medal in London.
Whether you love or hate boxing, you have to admit that this young woman is a champion and a trailblazer.
Here’s how CBS news describes her win:
The 17-year-old Shields shuffled, danced and slugged her way past her 33-year-old opponent, showing off the free-spirited style and brute strength that made her unbeatable at the London Games.
Shields even stuck her tongue out at Torlopova after ducking a few punches in the final round.
The teen sensation has won over the London crowd with a combination of style, skill and charisma.
Shields is the youngest boxer to win an Olympic gold medal since 16-year-old John Fields of the U.S. won the featherweight title at the 1924 Olympics, according to Reuters.
Shields has had a swift rise to fame.
The teenager was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and was only 11 when she took up boxing. Her father introduced her to the sport, taking her to a local gym to see fighters in action and telling her about Laila Ali’s prowess in the ring.
She fell in love with the sport immediately and was soon training regularly at her local gym. Early on she met her coach and trainer, Jason Crutchfield, who has accompanied her to the Summer Games.
Jump forward to February 2012, and Shields, now 16 and the youngest boxer in the field, was a sensation at the trials for the first U.S. women’s boxing team, winning three straight bouts in the middleweight division. She had less than a year of high-level experience, but nevertheless Shields headed to the World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, in May 2012 to qualify for the Olympics.
In order to do that, she first had to appeal to members of a church in Flint for a few hundred dollars to pay for her airfare to China. She succeeded at that, but once in China, all her dreams nearly fell apart.
Even though she had a 26 – 0 record, not to mention a fierce determination to win, Shields almost didn’t make it to the team when she was upset by England’s Savannah Marshall. Thankfully, officials decided to place her on the team anyway. I imagine they are very happy today that they made that decision.
What an amazing young woman! Congratulations, Claressa!
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky