Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

Teen Contender: Then & Now

Boxer Claressa Shields is seen preparing for a fight. She stands with her eyes closed as her coach straps protective padding on her head.
Claressa Shields preparing for a fight in 2012. Photo by Sue Jaye Johnson

Boxing has been an Olympic sport since the time of the ancient greeks. But for most of that history, it’s been just for men. That changed in 2012, at the summer olympics in London. Women boxers were finally allowed to compete. And one of the women who made history that year, was a teenager from Flint, Michigan.

Claressa Shields was 16 years old boxer with a dream. To become the first woman to win a gold medal in boxing. Photojournalist Sue Jaye Johnson and Radio Diaries followed Claressa as she prepared for the Olympic trials.


It’s been nearly 10 years since we first recorded with Claressa. She’s now 25 with two gold medals hanging around her neck. She’s achieved her boxing dreams. But this year, she reached a different milestone. On the podcast, Sue Jaye Johnson checks in with Claressa to see where she is today.

Our original audio diary with Claressa — Teen Contender — won a Peabody Award in 2012. The follow up story originally aired on This American Life as part of their 25th anniversary special.

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