“America is a free country,” she adds. “The men get to do what they want; the women can do what they want, too.”
Shields was 11 when she chose boxing. Her father, who had boxed in Detroit area gyms as a young man, was imprisoned when Shields was two. She was nine when he was released.
“When he got out, he basically told me that he had wasted a whole bunch of his life in prison,” she said in an interview shortly before the Olympics started. “We were sitting there talking, and he mentioned that his passion was boxing. He told me about Laila Ali. And I decided I would box, so he could live some of his life through me.”
Shields’s father wasn’t in London to watch his daughter box Wednesday. But her longtime personal coach, Jason Crutchfield, who honed her skills and served as a surrogate parent, urged her on from the stands, jabbing a fist in the air as a cue to put her own mighty jab to use.
Shields won the first round 7-5, then landed several punches while battling from the ropes much of the second round to extend her lead to 12-8.
During breaks between rounds, Peek urged Shields to stick to the tactics they had discussed and to stay off the ropes.
“She’s a dog out there: She wants to jump on ’em,” Peek said. “But she has to learn to stay calm and under control and use those phenomenal skills she has.”
Shields was so devastating in the third round that the referee issued a standing eight count to make sure Volnova could continue.
“That’s the performance I wanted everybody to see,” Shields said afterward, her record now 28-1, one victory shy of a gold medal.
Her teammate Marlen Esparza, a 112-pound flyweight from Houston, dropped a tough semifinal, 10-8, to Ren CanCan of China. Esparza, who trained 11 years for this moment, took bronze.
With Shields guaranteed at least silver, the U.S. women will bring home two medals while the U.S. men failed to win a single medal for the first time in Olympic history.
Even before the London Games got underway, Peek predicted that the U.S. women would inject a sorely needed spark into the sport.
“I think they’re revitalizing the amateur boxing for the men,” Peek said. “You’ve got women coming into the sport, and they have play catch-up. They don’t have all those years of experience. So they’re willing to work harder and put in more time. So there’s a lot more hunger, a lot more tenacity.”