ESSENCE Network: Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields on How to Be a Champion
Getty/Harry How

In 2012 Claressa Shields made history as the first woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal for boxing at the London Olympics at just 17 years old. Today, Shields is training to defend her title at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. See how her journey is about much more than boxing.

Name: Claressa Shields

Age: 21

Title: Olympic Gold Medalist and UP2US Sports Ambassador

Location: Colorado Springs (Olympic Training Center)

Hometown: Flint, Michigan

Twitter: @claressashields

Instagram: @claressashields

The gig: I am an Up2Us sports ambassador. I always talk about how important it is for kids to have a coach, because I had a coach help navigate my life. I represent Up2Us sports because I try to put it out there that kids need somebody to help them navigate their life, and coaches are a great way to help.

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Claressa 101: It is not just about boxing. I come from a rough upbringing. I come from Flint, Michigan. I have been through things in my life I have had to over come, and when you hear me talk you feel inspired. I can motivate your daughters not to be boxers, but to be whatever they want to be and to be themselves. Boxing is just half of what I am supposed to do with my life. I am doing what I am doing to be on a platform to help those who are broken to become unbroken, because I was a broken person before. So it is not just about boxing, but when you see boxing you can see the other side of me. You can see the upbringing, you can see the pain, you can see the toughness, and it is all delivered into a sweet science. 

What it means to be on top: There will always be doubters, and I do not think people really understand what that means. In 2012 I was a 1 in 25 favorite to win the Olympics. I have been undefeated for four years. I am going into Rio as a two time world champ, reigning Olympic gold medalist defending my Olympic gold medal and it is just so crazy to hear all the time that winning the 2016 Olympics is going to be harder than 2012. I never let that get inside my head. I started training and getting ready for Rio about 3 years ago, and I made every training camp hard to make every fight easy. The road to this Olympics has definitely been harder than it was the first time, but if I train harder and I get better it will not be as hard as everybody thinks. I can make it look easy. Now we are two months out from Rio and I have beaten every girl who is at the Olympics at least once if not twice. I am just waiting for the Olympics to come, and show every body I am going to do this despite you giving me all this negative feedback. Our boxing is the best in the world ,and I am the best in the world right now.

Her definition of a strong woman: A strong woman is someone who can take being doubted, who can take on being voted against; but she can still over come, stick to her dream and make things happen. 

Her words to live by: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense,” Ralph Waldo Emerson. I read this quote everyday when I walk out of the gym. Good day, bad day whatever it is like this day is over with you have tomorrow to fix whatever you messed up on today. You have another chance to get better.

Her tech fix: I am a social media junkie. I love to watch Kevin Hart’s posts. Before him, I had never been inspired by somebody who was not an athlete. Everyday he is doing something with his life. He is cracking jokes, he is being himself and he is not letting anybody put a label on him or anything. He is living his life they way he wants to, and to me that is something everybody should work toward. 

Her stress relievers: I always listen to rap to get me hyped up and then I listen to gospel to clam me down. When I go in the ring, I always walk the ring. That is to let you know it is my house. This is my ring. Then I pray in the corner. I do not pray for a victory. I pray the judges are fair, and give the fight to the opponent who earned it. I also pray he protects us from serious injuries. 

Her inspiration: I look up to Serena Williams. She is my favorite. I love her. I think she is my twin.

Her theme song: “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna