From Flint to Rio: The woman who made Olympic history

Gold medalist Claressa Maria Shields of the United States poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's Boxing Middle (69-75kg) on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 6 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Story highlights

  • Claressa Shields won back-to-back gold medals in 2012 and 2016
  • The boxer was born in Flint, Michigan

(CNN)Claressa Shields has made history.

At the 2016 Olympic Games the 21-year-old became the first US boxer -- male or female -- to win back-to-back gold medals. Her record now stands at 77-1, after defeating the Netherlands' Nouchka Fontijn in a unanimous decision.
    Claressa Maria Shields, right, reacts as she won her gold medal for the women's middleweight 75-kg boxing.
    Shields is from Flint, Michigan, a city whose water crisis thrust it into the national spotlight.
    Despite its challenges, her hometown of Flint has been one of her biggest support systems. Shields is moving to Florida later this year, but returned to Flint this week to thank the community. After Rio, we talked to Shields about boxing, Flint and her gold medals.
    How did your hometown help you become a boxer and an athlete?
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    I started boxing when I was 11. When I walked into the gym, that's the first place that I felt accepted. Before then, in my life, I always felt like I was always in a dark place and that I never really fit in anywhere, and that I had nothing to be happy about in my life.
    I was always very athletic. I played basketball; I played softball; I ran track. But boxing was the sport that I felt most at home ... and it's what helped me find God. It helped me learn how to control my anger, and it helped me become the person that I am.
    When I walked in the gym everybody was working hard. Everybody was sweating, everybody was in pain. When I decided to start, it was all boys in the gym.
    What was it like being the only girl?
    When I first went to the gym, there was only one guy who verbally said to me that women shouldn't box or that a girl shouldn't be [there]. And that was the first guy I beat up at the gym!
    What does it mean to you to represent Flint and your country?
    Right now, representing Flint means the world to me. We're going through so much as a community. It's just so much bad news around.
    But whenever you hear Claressa Shields' name, you hear about good news and how I'm bringing more attention to Flint, and how I'm bringing so much hope to the people.
    Some of the things going on can make you feel hopeless. With the water, the gun violence, and the poverty level -- it's just so much darkness around. When you see just a little bit of light, people can run with it. I just hope that I bring the city together, even if it's just for three big fights, or if it's 10 minutes.
    Claressa Shields celebrates victory over Nouchka Fontijn.
    Why are you going back?
    Because I know everybody there was rooting for me. And my whole goal is to let them know that even though I am this worldwide celebrity now, I am still from Flint. I still represent Flint and I will always come back to help in any way that I can.
    Even though I haven't lived there in over a year, that is where I have the most support. They need to see me.