Claressa Shields (courtesy: US Presswire)
LONDON (Detroit Free Press) - She's just 17, but Claressa Shields knows the impact that her Olympic women's boxing gold medal will have -- not only in the sport, but where it matters to her most: Flint.
Moments after stepping off the podium after capturing the 12-member U.S. boxing team's only gold medal in London, Shields said she was dedicating to her medal to the city that raised her and to her personal coach -- Jason Crutchfield -- whose family took her in at a time when she had no place to go.
"It's always dedicated to Flint, 'cause that's where I'm from," said Shields, who's a senior at Flint Northwester High. "I dedicate it to my coach. I feel like he deserves it: He's trained a lot of men at our gym, but none that wanted to dedicate themselves.
"And I feel that USA needs it. I'm just glad that somebody got a gold medal."
Make that any medal at all. Shields and women's flyweight bronze medalist Marlen Esparza captured the only two medals for U.S. boxing program. The winningest nation in boxing history got no medals from its men's team for the first time. Women's boxing made its Olympic debut in London in three weight classes.
• More: Flint already planning a welcome-home for Shields
Shields, who has been boxing since she was 11 and was competing in just her third international competition, had too much speed and power against Russia's Nadezda Torlopova. Shields won, 19-12, outpointing her in every round but the first.
"The other fighter was young, fast -- speed won over experience," Torlopova said through an interpreter. "When I was two points down, I knew it was over."
In the other women's finals, flyweight Nicola Adams of Great Britain won the first Olympic gold medal in women's boxing, when she upset reigning world champion Ren Cancan of China, 16-7.
Katie Taylor of Ireland won the lightweight gold medal when she edged Russia's Sofya Ochigava, 10-8, in front of a roaring, mostly Irish crowd.
Asked what she thought of as she watched the American flag raised the rafters, Shields said: "I was thinking, 'God knows my heart.' This is something that I wanted for a long time, even when I felt that boxing wasn't going right, and my life wasn't going right. I always wanted a gold medal, and I kept working toward it, and people were saying that I can't do it. That I'm too young, that there's going to be girls that are going to beat me who have better experience, or more experience, and I proved them all wrong."