The United States just grabbed another gold medal, this time one of the first of 'em ever awarded in a brand-new Olympic sport. Women's boxing, always a controversial enterprise and a sport added to the Games this year, held its middleweight finals today, and an American went ahead and won it. Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields defeated Russia's Nadezda Torlopova 19-12. After a tentative, prodding start for both fighters, Shields got aggressive in the middle two rounds to take most of her points, then survived retaliation in the final round to take the first gold medal ever awarded in middleweight women's boxing*. Afterward, Shields did plenty of dancing. Can't blame her.
Shields's difficult path to this point has been profiled at length, and it's one to be admired. She grew up in the rough, desolate part of Flint, Michigan. Her father, the man who introduced her to boxing, spent a substantial stretch of her childhood in prison, and her mother was only occasionally in the picture. Shields has spent much of her upbringing shuttling between her aunt's home and that of her trainer, Jason Crutchfield. On top of all that, of course, is the fact that her realm of competition has been deliberately marginalized for years. The gold is a triumph for Shields, for her country, and for her newly recognized sport.
Overall, the inclusion of women has rapidly boosted the USA's boxing success. Shields's gold is the first by an American since Andre Ward got one in 2004, and she's the second-youngest boxer to ever win one. Meanwhile, Shields's teammate, Marlen Esparza, took home bronze in the flyweight division. Pretty productive for a team with just three members. Not bad, ladies.