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So I'm not a huge fan of sports in general. At school I was more your nerdish booky type - which in retrospect is odd given I'm quite strongly built. The one exception is, oddly, American Football, also known as Gridiron or, less charitably, Hand Egg.

A game with rules so complex that one needs to watch for three or seasons just to figure out what is going on. A game where an important part of the action is the two teams lining up either side of a ball on the ground, and just staring at the each other. A game where each team brings something like forty three players to a game when at any one time there are only eleven on the field. A game where if the ball is in fact kicked, there are two different team members who specialise in certain kinds of kicking.

I digress.

Needless to say, the Olympics usually pass me by. I'm not filled with the Olympic spirit, I'm not interested in watching a sport as dull as rowing just because I share a home nation with some of the competitors.

But there was one athlete, or more specifically one athlete and her story, that caught my attention. Not least because she is a she, and women's sport is both poorly reported and poorly resourced.

I first heard about Claressa Shields in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics, I think from an article in the Guardian. Long story short, Claressa comes from the very tough town of Flint, Michigan, started boxing when she was eleven and insisted that her dad - who spent a lot of her childhood in jail - teach her. And at the 2012 games, at the age of just seventeen, while still in school, she fought her way to become the first women's Olympic gold medallist. Women's boxing was only added to the Olympics for the 2012 games because, hey, women you know, shouldn't be allowed to do certain things just because.

Oh, they also reported she'd had trouble getting sponsors because she wasn't ladylike(!) enough and said things like "I like hitting people".

One problem with my continued disinterest in sport is that when I do watch it I often have no idea what is going on, nor what differentiates a good athlete from a mediocre one. For example all I really know about boxing is from watching When We Were Kings. Highly recommended by the way. But I decided to watch Claressa fight at the Olympics anyway. In 2016, aged now only 21, she was defending her title.

And damn, she hadn't even stepped into the ring and I could tell she was good.

Most of the boxers would wander out behind someone holding a banner for their country, jump around and stretch a bit. Claressa come out with a look on her face like she wanted to kill someone.

In the three bouts I watched she was amazing. Again, I don't know much about boxing, but it quickly became apparent that she was very very good at it. She had no wasted motion. She stand almost still till her opponent took a few swings at her. Then she'd dart out of the way so none of them connected. Then she'd take her time and land a whole lot of brutal punches, punches that would have sent me reeling, even if I was a lot fitter and stronger than I am. In one bout her poor opponent was left gasping on the ropes, wondering what had hit her!

This was the only vid I could find of a full boxing match, from the Olympic qualifications:


Needless to say, she won the gold medal, again. First American to win back-to-back Olympic boxing medals. She's only 21 so she might well be back for two more Olympic games. I might just have to follow her career now.
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