(Updated 10:30 a.m.) We’re still waiting for the official word, but Flint boxer Claressa Shields is headed to the London Olympics after an excruciating week in limbo at the AIBA women’s world championships in Qinhuangdao, China.
“She called me up and said, ‘Coach?”” said Jason Crutchfield, Shields’ coach back in Flint, where the 17-year-old U.S. middleweight champ spent the last six years training at Berston Field House. “I said, ‘Yeah?’ Then she said, ‘I’m in!’”
And after the two got done screaming, Crutchfield said he told her, ‘We got another chance at it. We’re gonna take full advantage of it.”
They got another chance because England’s Savannah Marshall, who ousted Shields in a preliminary bout Sunday, won her semifinal match Friday to advance to the championship fight in the middleweight division in China. That effectively secured an Olympic qualification for Shields, one of five boxers from the Americas (North, Central and South America) battling for two — or three — Olympic berths in their weight class.
All five of those boxers lost in the preliminary rounds, leaving all five to wait on the tournament results of the opponents that beat them. There were two Olympic bids for the Americas up for grabs, along with one wild-card berth to be announced at the end of the tournament. And by Marshall advancing to the final, Shields is now guaranteed a top-two finish among the Americas group at her weight class.
“Sitting around waiting on somebody else to win — that’s the politics of the game,” Crutchfield said.
And all of this is a valuable lesson learned for Shields, who’d never lost a fight in her amateur career before last weekend, when she was outpointed by Marshall in a fight she thought she’d won, despite what the judges’ scorecard said.
“She told me what the story was with that fight,” said Crutchfield, who expects Shields to return home from China on Sunday night. “She told me, ‘I lost my patience, and I just lost my cool.’ She’d never been a fight that was that close early on, and she told me, ‘I saw that it was 2-2 (after the first round) and I just freaked out.’ … One thing about this is, she learned something from it. She’s 17 years old. Things happen. But she learned.”
And now she’ll get a chance to show what she learned in London. At the Olympics.
(Updated 11:15 a.m.) Just got an email from Shields in China, and of the Olympic berth she says, “It means everything. … I’m so thankful.” As for the second-round loss and the wait that followed: “I’m glad I had this learning experience. The loss hurt, but in London it’s going to feel great when I win my gold medal.”).