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Claressa Shields, 17, Wins Olympic Gold in Women’s Boxing

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Gold medalist Claressa Shields of the USA celebrates with the gold medal on the podium. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GettyImages)

Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields has dreamed of boxing in the Olympics since the International Olympic Committee voted to include it in 2009. In her head, she could hear the British announcer calling out her name, the crowd exploding in cheers. She’s been planning for this moment for a long time.

So when Claressa stepped into the real Olympic ring in London Thursday to face Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova, a boxer almost twice her age, she looked calm and confidant. She always does.

(Listen to our documentary following Claressa and the other women who competed for a chance to fight in London, Go For It: Life Lessons From Girl Boxers)

Her first round was imperfect, but she still won it. She took too many punches, and when she returned to the red corner for the one-minute break between rounds, she got a scolding from Coach Gloria Peek. “You’re getting hit too much,” she said. “I don’t want you getting hit.”

Throughout the rest of the bout, Claressa showed the best of her skills – jarring, fast punches thrown in quick combinations. In the second and third rounds, Shields increased her lead so much that, before the fourth, Coach Peek told her to go “have some fun.”

Overall, Claressa scored 19 points to Torlopova’s 12, dominating the bout.

When Claressa came back into the ring for the medal ceremony, her full smile broke into uninhibited laughter. With the medal around her neck, she grabbed the gold and danced with joy, wiggling her body in every direction.

This is the first time women boxers have been allowed to compete in the Olympic Games.

WNYC has been following the women who fought to make history, including the 17-year-old Shields. WNYC contributor Sue Jaye Johnson and Joe Richman of Radio Diaries gave her a recorder and microphone to document her journey.

She started boxing when she was 11, despite the fact that her father, an ex-fighter himself, told her it was ‘a man’s sport.’


Now she has admirers all over the world, but in downtrodden Flint, Michigan, where Shields first convinced her dad and coach to let her box, her fans are especially ecstatic about her victory. Jason Crutchfield, her coach since she was 11, said Claressa’s dream has come true, but that’s not all.

"The thing about it is she actually knows that hard work makes dreams come true," he said.

Crutchfield says he’s not sure what their next steps might be. Over the phone from London, he said she might go pro if she can make good money doing it, given all the attention focused on her now. But professional women boxers say they sometimes have trouble finding anyone to fight. It’s rare they make much money.

Around the world, women boxers hope these Olympic games give their sport a lift.

In February, after Claressa won a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and began training to box in the Olympics, she said, "I always knew I was going to be something. I just didn't know what.”

Now she knows — an Olympic gold medal winner. At 17.

 

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Comments [9]

Glork from Glen Ridge, NJ

Thanks WNYC/ NPR for introducing us to this truly astonishing athlete who is all of 17 and posesses so many qualities that we can all learn so very much from.

Clarissa! Your clear-sightedness and focus on the highest achievment is a joy to behold. Congratulations to a homegirl hero who truly earned her gold medal. How proud we are !!

Aug. 10 2012 08:20 AM
Adam from New York

We love you Clarissa!! Been following you since first heard your story on
NYC/NPR and made everyone watch the gold medal fight w/me at work yesterday (shhh!). You were beautiful before London, you've always been, and this is just icing on the cake. Enjoy your hard-earned glory and then ... pay it forward when the time is right. xox

Aug. 10 2012 06:56 AM
Nick Pirce from dc

17 yr old Claressa Shields gives U.S. its only boxing gold medal overall and its first gold in the first Olympic women's boxing event!

Aug. 09 2012 09:21 PM
Linda Schiff Klempner from Queens, NY

Have been following Clarissa's story since earlier this year. A senior citizen, I was touched by her determination against all odds. Good work Clarissa!! I didn't expect the Gold, but you did it and we are proud!

Aug. 09 2012 05:43 PM
Fred from Bushwick

CONGRATULATIONS CLARISSA!!! I first heard about Clarissa on WNYC, and I cried when I read this!! AMAZING YOUNG LADY!! WELL DONE!!

Aug. 09 2012 05:18 PM
Carole Walker from Tinton Falls, NJ

Congratulations "Little Girl," which is meant lovingly. I first heard about you only days before the Olympics and was so proud of your hard work. I can only hope my grands do just as well, as they now want to be an Olympian. YOu set the standard for hard work, perseverance, and the desire to be a winner. And you are. Love you to ....

Aug. 09 2012 03:59 PM
fuva from harlemwold

Sooooooooo happy for and proud of and tickled by her.

Aug. 09 2012 03:47 PM
Belinda

Congratulations to Clarissa!! Thank you, WNYC, for introducing me to such an inspirational young woman.

Aug. 09 2012 02:16 PM
David & Constance Yates from New York City

Having first heard about Clarissa on WNPR, we have been following her story ever since. This morning when we awakened, all we could think about was the match between Clarissa and her opponent. We were hoping and praying for Clarissa and are beyond thrilled that her dream came true.

She has worked hard to overcome a lifetime of hardships, which makes her Olympic victory all the more extraordinary.

GO GIRL!

Aug. 09 2012 02:12 PM

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