In the shadow of McKayla Maroney’s meme and this week’s Lolo Jones controversy, US boxer Claressa Shields has been quietly working her way towards not one, but several of the greatest accomplishments at the London Olympics in 2012. She won the first ever gold medal in women’s boxing (this was the first year the event was allowed at the Olympics), the only gold medal for U.S. boxing in 2012, and became the second-youngest fighter to win gold in either men’s or women’s boxing.
The 17-year-old hasn’t been without her own obstacles; she’s pretty much the real-life version of all those inspirational female boxing movies that have become so cliche…except in the ring, she’s anything but an underdog. An honor student from Flint, Michigan, she comes from a rough town and difficult family: She doesn’t live her parents, and her father, who’s been in jail for much of her childhood, introduced her to boxing but refused to allow her to participate because it was a men’s sport. She eventually started training at age 11, and ended up winning two Junior Olympic championships and defeating the national champion, Franchon Crews, at the Olympic trials when she was just 16.
She’s poised to become the face of women’s boxing; her story and like-ability are only second to her incredible performances in the ring.
But for now, her first reactions are mostly just jumble thank-yous to her friends and coaches. According to the Detroit Free Press:
It’s always dedicated to Flint, ‘cause that’s where I’m from,” said Shields, who’s a senior at Flint Northwester High. “I dedicate it to my coach. I feel like he deserves it: He’s trained a lot of men at our gym, but none that wanted to dedicate themselves.
“And I feel that USA needs it. I’m just glad that somebody got a gold medal.”
In post-match photos, she’s all smiles, and we hope she stays that way form now until 2016, when she’ll likely be competing against high expectations in Rio.
Photo: Claressa Shields/twitter