LONDON — Throughout the Olympics’ first women’s boxing tournament, U.S. middleweight Claressa Shields would refer to the ultimate prize as “my gold medal.”
After Thursday, she can proudly claim that it is.
Shields, 17, defeated Nadezda Torlopova of Russia on Thursday night, 19-12, to claim the gold medal in the middleweight division, in the Olympic event’s inaugural year. She’s the second-youngest fighter to win gold in either men’s or women’s boxing.
The opening round was scored 3-3, with Torlopova leading with her left and Shields responding with quick combinations inside. The second round was all Shields: a 7-4 win in which she landed several strong combinations. The third saw her increase her lead with a 5-3 win, landing stiff jabs to the Russian’s head. She held that lead in the final round, and raised her hands in presumed victory.
Shields was the lone American fighter to reach a gold medal match in London. Her teammate, Marlen Esparza, captured the first American medal in women’s boxing on Thursday, losing in the flyweight semifinals to Cancan Ren of Chinca, 10-8.
Per Olympic rules, both fighters who lost in the semifinals were awarded bronze medals.
At 17, Shields is the youngest American Olympic boxer since Davey Armstrong made the 1972 team in Munich at 16 years old.
She was a local hero back in her native Flint, Mich., with friends, family and fans gathering to watch her televised Olympic bouts. Her journey to London was an inspiration to the community.
As Bryant Nolden, a councilman in the city’s third ward, told the Detroit News: “She’s a rose that grew out of a concrete jungle. If a rose can grow through concrete, you know it has to be very resilient.”
She was in this tournament; and, in the end, the rose bloomed into a history-making champion in London.