LIFE AFTER THE OLYMPICS: THE CLARESSA SHIELDS STORY
Since returning home to Flint, Michigan on August 13th, Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields’ life has been in a constant daze of cameras and flashing lights. The 17-year-old athlete made history as the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport of boxing.
“When I left [for London], there might have been 10 people who saw me off from the airport,” Claressa told theGrio. “[After the Olympics], I came back and there were 600 people at the airport. There were a bunch of people from the city, a bunch of people who weren’t from Flint were here. It was overwhelming. It kind of freaked me out.”
She went on the say, “I’ve just been doing interviews and signing autographs and pictures. It’s just really crazy but I kind of still don’t believe it. I still really haven’t sat down and said ‘yeah, I’m ranked No. 1 in the world and I’m an Olympic Gold Medalist.’ It just hasn’t hit me.”
Claressa was introduced to boxing by her dad, Bo Shields. She started in the ring when she was 11 years old. She won 2 Junior Olympics championships and at her first open tournament, the National Police Athletic League championships, she won the middleweight title and qualified for the Olympic trials.
“At the Olympics, for those eight minutes of each fight, all that attention was on me,” she said. “Either the crowd is with you or against you. When I was fighting [Laurell in the quarterfinals], all of them doubting me made me step up even more.”
Companies are already chomping at the bit, ready to get a chance to have the teen boxer endorse their products. Adidas as well as Chevrolet are two of the companies that want Claressa to sign on the dotted line to be the face for their brands.
Not only has Clareesa been approached by company sponsors, she has also been approached by other boxers. Oscar De La Hoya, Bob Arum, and Floyd Mayweather have all asked her about fighting professionally. For now, Claressa is focused on school and leaning toward training for the 2016 Olympic games before going pro. After high school, she plans on attending college where she would like to study photojournalism. She’s not sure where she wants to attend college, but Michigan State University and University of Michigan’s Flint campus are in the running.
“Either I could go after the money now because I’m in high demand, or I can stay amateur and get endorsements and then I’ll still be living OK,” Shields said. “I just want to be able to help my family, but I don’t think going pro right now will do it. When I’m 21 [in 2016], there won’t even be a question.”
No matter what path she takes, Claressa’s main focus is her mother and two younger siblings. She wants to help support her family financially like they’ve supported her emotionally. Being able to move out of Flint, Michigan is important to Claressa. She said, “My little brother is why I want to get out of Flint,” she added. “Young boys get killed here, no matter what age. Even though he’s not a bad kid, you can still run into trouble hanging around the wrong people.”
Claressa is a great example for young people that working hard can make dreams come true. Great job!