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LONDON — In the bowels of the F.W.C. Berston Fieldhouse in Flint, Mich., with old equipment when it was there and makeshift gear when it was not, Claressa Shields worked. There was no promised payoff, no hint that boxing would elevate her to a better life. Yet since age 11 she was there, nearly every day, battering heavy bags until they split, sparring with boys because there were no girls who could go rounds with her.

She did it because she loved it, not because she expected much from it. She got something at ExCeL Centre on Thursday though: A gold medal. With a thorough, 19-12 whipping of Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova, the 17-year old Shields claimed the only gold medal for the U.S. boxing team while becoming the second-youngest boxer ever to win gold.

Addressing a throng of reporters in the media zone, a teenager’s enthusiasm was replaced by subdued bewilderment. “I don’t even know that this is real right now,” Shields said. “I’m surprised I didn’t cry. This is something I wanted for a long time.”

Read more: SI CNN

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