African-American boxer Claressa Shields made world history Aug. 9 as one of the first women to win an Olympic gold medal in her event’s inaugural year.
Shields, a 17-year-old native of Flint, Michigan, beat 33-year-old Russian Nadezda Torlopova, 19-12, to take the gold in the middleweight division. Her victory came just minutes after British boxer Nicola Adams, also a woman of color, beat Chinese boxer Cancan Ren for the gold in the flyweight division.
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London marked the first time women’s boxing was held as an event. Shields’ name will be remembered as the first middleweight female boxer to ever claim an Olympic gold medal.
Fellow USA boxer Marlen Esparza captured the first American medal in women’s boxing, taking bronze after losing the flyweight semifinals to Ren.
Shields is also the second youngest boxer, male or female, to win an Olympic gold medal. Davey Armstrong won gold at the age of 16 during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
Shields won her fight with Torlopova with a dominant second round and similarly strong third round. The first round ended with a tie score, 3-3, but Shields worked several combinations in the second to win the round, 7-4. She took the third round, 5-3, by working her jab to the head of the Russian boxer. She then held off Torlopova in the fourth and final round, 4-2, sticking her tongue out at the Russian as she ducked and dodged punches on her way to the victory.