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Claressa Shields keeps her promise, captures Olympic gold medalAug 9, 2012 The hope and dream began with a call out of the blue about three years ago. Nothing more. Just a few seconds of life-changing information. Claressa Shields was around 14 when she picked up the phone and her coach, an excited Jason Crutchfield, was on the other end yelling "women's boxing is going to be in the Olympics!"
The call—and everything else—seems distant now as Shields stood proudly on the podium, beaming a megawatt smile as an Olympic gold medalist in the first time ever for women's boxing, debuting as a medal sport in the 2012 Olympics.
The 17-year old senior from Northwestern (Flint, Mich.) High School easily outboxed Russian Nadezda Torlopova, the tournament's No. 2 seed, 19-12, to become the first U.S. fighter to capture gold since world super middleweight Andre Ward in the 2004 Athens games as a light heavyweight.
Shields also became the second-youngest boxer to ever win an Olympic gold medal in boxing and the first female to do so.
Shields' rise came rapidly and almost from nowhere. Boxing, Shields said, gave her a new direction in life. A victim of child abuse, a father who was in jail and a mother who was a shadowy figure, Shields took up boxing when she was 11. It was a great way for her to channel her anger and frustration.
It's been very cathartic. Her magnetic personality has made her a fan favorite at the London Olympics and her compelling, underdog back story has drawn increasing attention as Shields reached the semifinal and gold-medal round.
Shields received a first-round bye, but when she Sweden's Anna Laurell, 18-14, in the quarterfinals, she guaranteed herself a bronze medal. When she pummeled Kazakhstan's Marina Volnova, 29-15 in the semifinals, she was guaranteed a silver.
Against Torlopova, Shields dominated. The 33-year old Russian, a bronze medalist at the world championships, was much more mechanical than the fluid Shields, who kept landing counter lefts and rights to Torlopova's face and body.
In the second round, Shields began showing her dominance, stepping up her attack midway through the round, using distance and quickness to get inside of Torlopova's punching range. The only thing that stopped Shields was a left shoelace that needed to be tied.
Following that, Shields extended her lead connecting with rights and lefts that Torlopova had no answer for. Shields took a 15-10 lead into the fourth and final round and kept up the pressure, winning very easily 19-12.
After the final verdict was read, Claressa patted her heart with her left hand and playfully did a Muhammad Ali shuffle, and played with her hair, much like "The Greatest" used to do.
As the theme song of "Chariots of Fire" blared in the background, Shields stood on the top step of the medal podium and was presented the gold medal.
Claressa raised the medal over her head and yelled, constantly touching it, kissing it, almost in disbelief that this was all happening to her.
But it did happen.
A long, sometimes heart-wrenching personal journey ended on an Olympic medal stand in London, England.
Claressa Shields is an Olympic champion.
Read about Shields' journey to the Olympics in the most recent Beyond the X feature.