RIO DE JANEIRO — Two-time boxing gold medallist Claressa Shields said she hoped her victories would help inspire other young African-American women to reach for success.
Shield’s triumph in the women’s middleweight final on Sunday against the Netherlands’ Nouchka Fontijn means that at the age of just 21, she is a double Olympic gold winner, the 2014 World Champion, and the 2015 Pan American Games champion.
She also became the first U.S. boxer in 112 years to win two Olympic gold medals.
Born and bred in Flint, Michigan, her father was in prison for most of the first nine years of her life. Although he introduced her to boxing, he believed it was a man’s sport and initially discouraged her from taking it up herself. She has said that it was her grandmother who pushed her.
Shields has named her hero as tennis player Serena Williams.
Told after her win on Sunday that her name was trending on #blackwomenmagic, she said that when she was 17 she was enjoying her success after her gold at the London Games and did not really want to talk about black or political issues. That has changed, she said.
“When I started my quest for 2016 I decided I had a great story to tell, that I wanted to inspire people, give them a little bit of hope, because I didn’t have that when I was little. Your life is your decisions and I decided to be great.”
“I’m a great boxer but I’m also a person who loves uplifting people and make them feel great.”
She said in the past, she had been worried about her features and appearance.
“There have been times when I wished my hair wasn’t so thick, but at the same time I love everything about me. Black women doing great things is magic. People don’t seem to expect much from black females, or females period, so that the fact I can be so dominant in a male-dominated sport means a lot.”
Her father was at the ringside in Rio Janeiro on Sunday and she also paid tribute to him, saying he was a constant source support for her.