Two-time Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields has a list of accomplishments a mile long, and she isn’t afraid to talk about it.
On Wednesday night, Shields was honored as the individual Sportswoman of the Year at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 40th Annual Salute to Women in Sports. Soccer star and Olympic gold medalist Megan Rapinoe was named team Sportswoman of the Year.
There were times, Shields said, where her confidence made other people uncomfortable, but something inside her yelled for equality.
“Yes, I want equal pay and equal TV time, but more than all I wanted equality of freedom to speak confidently about my skills and express how much I love boxing and not be judged by it,” she said. “We are in those times now. I created my own lane.”
This is Shields’ second time being named Sportswoman of the Year after first taking the honor in 2016 following her second Olympic gold medal. This year’s award comes after Shields was crowned the first undisputed middleweight female champion of the world when she defeated Christina Hammer of Germany in a bout billed as the biggest in the history of women’s boxing.
Shields is only the second woman to receive the individual award twice; five-time Olympic gold medalist speedskater Bonnie Blair received it in 1994 and 1995.
The other 2019 individual sport finalists included four-time Olympic gold-medal gymnast Simone Biles, world champion mountain biker Kate Courtney, Paralympic swimming champ Becca Meyers, Paralympic paratriathlon gold medalist Allysa Seely, two-time Olympic skiing gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin and Olympian track star Ajeé Wilson.
For Rapinoe, the honor is another in a growing collection of them this year.
Rapinoe led the U.S. national team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup gold medal, totaled six goals and three assists and won both the Golden Boot for top scorer and Golden Ball for best player. She was named Best FIFA Women’s Player in September.
Rapinoe joked that she was asked for her comments earlier so they could be put in the teleprompter but that wasn’t how she rolled.
“Here we are. Strap in. Just kidding,” she said. “I’m really not used to this, as comfortable as I seem in front of a microphone. It’s awkward. All my success is due to the team. I’m just one part of that and the team does an incredible job to set all of us up to do the very best that we can. Without them, obviously, I’m not up here.”
The other team sport finalists included Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team, pitcher Rachel Garcia of the U.S. softball team, Olympic gold medalist Makenzie Fischer of the U.S. women’s water polo team and basketball player A’ja Wilson.
The 2019 U.S. women’s soccer team was also honored in a special tribute for the advocacy for gender equality on and off the field as well as their athletic achievements.