Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields overcame tremendous odds to take home the first ever Olympic gold medal in women’s boxing. Shields hails from Flint, Michigan, the hard-hit, working class town that threw its full support behind her Olympic dreams.
While most athletes were focusing all of their attention on preparing for the games, Shields had to study for finals and finish her classes before jetting off to London to fight in her very first Olympics. But that didn’t stop her. To capture gold, Shields beat out 33-year-old Nadezda Torlopova of Russia in a decisive victory.
Shields capped her rapid rise through the amateur ranks in the past two years with three strong performances in the London ring, providing USA Boxing with a much-needed boost.
Her power and elusiveness were far too much for Russia’s 33-year-old Nadezda Torlopova, nearly twice Shields’ age and half her speed at times. Shields won fairly easily, 19-12.
She shuffled, sidestepped and preened while showing off her power and speed, sticking her tongue out at Torlopova in the final round after dodging several punches by bobbing her head from side to side.
The teenager won the 12-member American team’s only gold medal in London. The winningest nation in Olympic boxing history got no medals from its men’s team for the first time, and flyweight Marlen Esparza won a bronze.
An ugly Olympics for the U.S. team ended with a performance worthy of Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, Oscar De La Hoya and every American Olympic champion that came before Shields.
After her arm was raised for the never-in-doubt victory, Shields shimmied and shook her way out of the ring with swagger. With her hand over her heart on the medal podium moments later, she abruptly burst into uproarious laughter, her head rocking back in pure joy.
The best thing about Shields’ amazing victory in London? She’ll only be 21 when the Olympics heads to Brazil in 2016. Can you say repeat?