Rio-bound boxer Claressa Shields: ‘God gave me strength’

Flint native to defend Olympic gold medal at Rio games

Claressa Shields
Claressa Shields shows off her gold medal from the 2012 Olympic Games in London. (June 2016)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (WOOD) — Some athletes win an Olympic gold medal and put it in a safe deposit box. Not Claressa Shields.

“I’m a fighter. Nobody going to take my gold medal,” the Flint native said with a laugh. “I keep it with me all the time.”

Shields earned her gold in women’s middleweight boxing during the 2012 Olympic games in London. She was ecstatic as the medal was draped around her neck.

“All of the sudden I get up there. The bronze medal get their medal, then the silver. Then it was my turn and that’s when it hit me I was about to get this gold medal! And then when I seen it, I was like- It still makes me laugh.”

Claressa Shields
In this photo taken on July 23, 2013, Claressa Shields prepares for her sparing round at the Berston Field House in Flint, Mich.

Her journey to that podium was remarkable. At the time, she was just 17 years old and she had an attitude.

“I can say that I was super angry when I was a child. I was angry for a long time,” she said. “Growing up in Flint, a lot of my anger come from, one, my dad was in prison. I grew up in poverty. And I always tell people, too … but there are other women that go through being raped and being molested when they were kids. I was kind of angry from all that stuff.”

She was 5 years old the first time she was raped, she says.

“When I found God in my life when I was 13, he gave me a stronger mind to handle it,” she said. “He gave me the strength to bear with everything and he tell me that as long as you stick to you and be a good person, you don’t have to worry about that. That’s the past. For some people to leave the past behind, it’s pretty hard. God gave me the mental strength to just do it.”

Along with that mental strength, she is gifted with physical strength and an insatiable appetite to win. She hasn’t lost a fight in four years, adding a gold medal in the 2015 Pan Am Games and world championships in 2014 and 2016 to her growing collection of titles.

Claressa Shields, Pan Am Games
In this July 24, 2015, file photo, Claressa Shields, of the United States, left, reacts after she was given the victory over the Yenebier Guillen Benitez, of the Dominican Republic in the women’s middleweight gold medal boxing bout at the Pan Am Games in Oshawa, Ontario.

She’s even better now, she says, than when she stepped into the ring in London.

“Claressa at 17, she was definitely a beast, she was. But it’s like now, I’m so much smarter than what I was,” Shields said. “I watch a lot of film and I’m like, oh my goodness, I got hit a lot. It wasn’t like I got hit and I got hurt, it was like I didn’t really care if I got hurt. Now in a fight, I probably get hit clean about four times.”

Success has made her more confident and new surroundings made her more comfortable. She moved to Colorado Springs, Colo. to train for the Olympic games in Rio. It’s a sharp contrast to the challenges that surrounded her as a child in Flint.

“Now I’m the one landing the shots. Nobody is hitting me. Now I can beat any fighter,” she said.

She’ll defend her gold when she boxes for Team USA at the Rio games in August.

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2016 Olympic Games in Rio

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