Claressa Shields says she was called T-Rex as a child because she had short arms, but was always swinging. Perhaps it was a foreshadowing to the athlete she would become: namely, the undisputed female middleweight champion of the world. The Flint, Michigan native was the first American woman to ever win a middleweight title.
Shields’ upbringing made her a fighter. Ate age 5, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Growing up in poverty, she had to sacrifice meals for her siblings. Before becoming her boxing coach, her father served time in prison.
“When I was young, I was super quiet and I didn’t trust anybody. I didn’t like having friends. I started boxing when I was 11, but I don’t think I started talking much until I was 13. I started coming out of my shell, and I started transforming and I liked the way that I looked and the way that I boxed,” she told ESPN. She trains for up to eight hours a day and never likes to let an opponent see her tired. That game face has served her well: she won a gold medal in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, making her the first American boxer—female or male—to win consecutive Olympic medals.
Shields is a living testimony of grit and perseverance, despite any difficult circumstance. She told ESPN, “I’m fighting for my family, I’m fighting for my future, I’m fighting for my city — to give them some hope and faith, because it’s so bad in Flint. I always fight harder than I would if I were fighting for just a medal.”
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