(LONDON, ENGLAND) – Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) marked her place in the historic books with the first-ever Olympic gold medal in the women’s middleweight division. Shields concluded her run to gold with a 19-12 victory over Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova in the middleweight gold medal bout on Thursday at the ExCel Centre in London. The gold medal is the first for the United States since Andre Ward in 2004 and the first-ever in women’s action.
Shields, whose entertaining style has won many fans at the 2012 Olympic Games, fulfilled her Olympic dream with a third strong performance in London. The teenager came out disciplined in the opening round, feeling out her Russian opponent nearly double Shields’ age, and the bout was tied at three after two minutes of boxing. That was as close as Torlopova would get in the four round bout. Shields began utilizing her strong edge in hand speed to impose her will in the second and claimed a 10-7 advantage at the halfway mark. She continued to catch the Russian with strong shots and combinations in the third round on her way to a 15-10 lead with one round remaining. Shields extended her advantage to seven in the final two minutes en route to a 19-12 final decision and the middleweight gold medal.
This is something that I’ve wanted for a long time and when I felt that boxing wasn’t going right and my life wasn’t going right, I always wanted a gold medal,” she said. “I just kept working toward it and people were saying that I couldn’t do it, that I was too young, that I’ll never do it. There were going to be girls that would beat me, that had more experience and I proved them all wrong.”
The Flint native dedicated her medal to her hometown and joins Flint boxers Andre Dirrell and Chris Byrd in winning Olympic hardware. Between the three of them, they own every color of medal with Shields completing the trifecta with her gold.
“It’s always dedicated to Flint, that’s where I’m from. It’s dedicated to my coach; he deserves it. He deserves it. He trains a lot of men at our gym but none of them want to dedicate themselves. I feel that USA needed it,” Shields said. “I’m just glad that someone got a gold medal because we were all in the gym together, we all sweat together, we all trained together, we all worked hard together so we all want to see each other succeed.”
The teenager qualified won the Olympic Trials at only 16, claiming both a gold medal and the Outstanding Boxer title at the February event. The Flint Northwestern High School student will return to school for her senior year with her own piece of history to share. Trained by Jason Crutchfield, out of FWC Berston, Shields has been boxing since the age of 11 and quickly took to the sweet science under Crutchfield’s tutelage. She is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team at only 17.
Flyweight Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) received her bronze medal on Thursday as well, giving Team USA two medals in the three women’s weight divisions.
Shields’ championship bout concludes Olympic boxing action for Team USA.
165 lbs: Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich./USA dec. Nadezda Torlopova, RUS, 19-12
Claressa Shields quotes
“I think I’m still numb. It feels great and unbelievable, I don’t even know if this is real right now. It feels unbelievable, I can’t believe this happening right now. I’m surprised I didn’t cry though.”
“I was thinking God knows my heart (while on the medal stand).”
“At the end of the day, when I got back from the fight, they always wished me the best. I represent myself and my teammates because if I had to count on one of them to represent me, I would hope that they would do good. I don’t think that anybody feels bad about me representing them, I did a pretty good job.”
“My game plan was to move to the right, and stay away from her right hand.”
“I haven’t been able to think past August 9, today. So having to think past that day right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m going to go wherever the wind blows me.”
“My life already changed because I’ve been leaving the country. I haven’t really been home a lot. I know I’m about to have a lot of publicity. I’m going in the history books, people are going to look at me as inspiration. I might have 10,000 followers on twitter when I get back. There’s a lot of stuff that’s going to change, I’m going to be able to help me family out. I have a gold medal that I can wear everyday by my choice, it’s mine.”
“My trainers, Jason Crutchfield and Ed Kendall are here. They came to every fight.”
“I didn’t want to underestimate her, I wanted to make sure that I got settled in so with the score being 3-3, I was like alright. I already knew that I was faster than her before the fight. I know that with this being the Olympics, I knew that she was going to step up. It seems like she kind of stepped up in the first round. Then after that, I think she felt that she was stronger than me so she was just going to walk in. When she saw that I had a little bit of power, she kind of stepped back a little bit. Her right hand was her bread and butter.”
“I wasn’t able to call my dad before I fought today. I called him an hour before I fought yesterday but I wasn’t able to today. He watched, he already knows. I’m just going to call him, he’s probably going to be crying or something like that. I just can’t believe this right now.”
“I don’t know, I really can’t say whether I will be back in four years. I like traveling for free, I like going to training camp. I like being able to do what I want to do. I really do love boxing. I want to be the best in boxing. If I can be a two-time gold medalist, my coach and I just have to talk about it.”
“I really wanted to represent the women well and I think I did a great job. I can always do better, I think I showed the best display of women’s boxing. I don’t think that there’s going to be anyone watching the Olympics saying that women can’t box because they saw me get down. I think I did a good job, I think more women will come in to the sport. I think the women who weren’t able to get into the Olympics are proud of me.”
“I will probably wear the medal everyday for the first year. There might be some days where I say I don’t want it to disappear from me, I earned it. This is my medal. I worked too hard, I worked really hard for this medal. I can’t even explain what I went through, all the people I had to deal with and just life period. There were people who were telling me that I couldn’t do this and when someone doubts me, it makes me push harder. So the haters kind of helped.”
“I kept looking at the medal, I tried not to look at it but I was like, there it go. It just made me laugh because I couldn’t believe that this medal was in front of me right now. When he put it on me, I was like aaaah. I started going crazy. I thought I was going to have a seizure or pass out.”
“There’s no good or bad draw. I came prepared to fight the best. If I had Savannah Marshall (reigning world champion), first, I really didn’t care because she beat me. I was in the gym steadily, constantly planning on fighting her. That’s why I beat the Kazakhstan girl so bad because she beat Savannah. I came prepared to fight the best. Girls 6-2, 6-3, girls who are strong, I came prepared. I didn’t care who I had first, second or last, I came prepared to do well. I was going to try my best to win every match.”
“My coach Jason, it’s so deep, that every summer I live with him. I stay with him and his family and whenever he sees me getting a little off track, he’s on me like white on rice. He’s not super strict, but he didn’t’ let me date. Made sure I was at the gym everyday. Sometimes when he couldn’t pick me up, he made me run to the gym. There were a lot of things that I had to sacrifice my own. I had to get up at six a.m. and run, and that was just to show how hungry I was to win. My coach did a lot, he sacrificed a lot of time with me. He used to call and come get me every morning to go run. When I learned how to do it myself, my coach and I were like half and half and we fit right together.”
“During training camp, one of the things that we were working on was patience. People used to hit me and I’d want to get it right back as soon as it happened. As you can see, in my first fight, I did a lot of thinking. The girl was tall and I knew that she didn’t want to fight me so I had to make my own plan to get in there but they told me to stay calm. She might get one point off you but you might be able to get three off in the next 10 seconds so make sure that you think. They were on me everyday to stay on my jab and make sure that I keep my hands up. They added on some tools that I felt like I needed.”