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Rio gold medalists Shields, Johnson win Sportswoman award

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Claressa Shields did a cartwheel in the ring after winning her second Olympic boxing gold medal in Rio, and she's not done celebrating.

Shields and water polo goaltender Ashleigh Johnson were recognized as Sportswomen of the Year at the Women's Sports Foundation's annual dinner Wednesday night.

The 21-year-old Shields will decide in the coming years if she wants to add 'Tokyo' for the 2020 Games to the tattoo of the Olympic rings with Rio and London on her right biceps.

"I'm back in the gym, trying to figure out what's the best move next," Shields said. "I'm taking my time with that. I have a couple of different options. I can go pro or stay amateur for 2020."

Johnson had 51 saves in Rio, including nine in the final against Italy, when the Americans won their second consecutive Olympic gold medal in water polo.

"It was definitely a perfect ending to all the work and effort and sacrifices we made in the past 1 1/2 years," Johnson said. "It was a big thing to carry on the legacy."

A senior psychology major at Princeton, she hopes to lead the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament next spring. The water polo team just missed the tournament while the 6-foot-1 goalie with the wide wingspan trained for Rio.

Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman won the Billie Jean King Contribution Award. Ackerman was the first president of the WNBA, now in its 20th season, and served on the boards of USA Basketball and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

Pakistani pro squash player Maria Toorpakai Wazir, who dressed as a boy to play sports and later moved to Canada after receiving death threats from the Taliban, earned the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.

King, a winner of 39 Grand Slam titles in her tennis career, created the Women's Sports Foundation in 1974. The foundation provides travel and training grants and community-based sports opportunities. Presenters on Wednesday night included Jessica Mendoza, Mary Carillo, Laila Ali, Meryl Davis, Aimee Mullins and Sanya Richards-Ross.

The foundation also paid tribute to the late Pat Summitt, the Tennessee coach who won eight national titles and a Division I record 1,098 games in her 38-year career. Former athletic director Joan Cronan and players Tamika Catchings and Kara Lawson honored their legendary coach.

Shields defended her middleweight title and became the first U.S. boxer to win consecutive gold medals in the Olympic sport that added women in 2012.

She's training and getting acclimated in her new place in Boynton Beach, Florida. The native of Flint, Michigan, spent the year before Rio at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She moved to Florida three weeks ago.

"I love it here, just got my furniture," she said. "I like the vibe and the people down here. They're very family-oriented and this place just makes me happy."

In the gold-medal match in Rio, Shields was faster and stronger than her taller Dutch opponent Nouchka Fontijn. Shields, who wore Superman knee socks, encouraged Fontijn in the fourth round to put up a better fight.

"I didn't mean to taunt her in the last round," Shields said. "When I fight with my hands down, it's more letting her think she has opportunities and a shot when she doesn't."

Shields owns a 77-1 record, won two world championship titles and spars mostly against men.

"If you want to get the best out of me, you have to let me fully perform," she said. "The guys can't hold back on me, so you end up going 100 percent. There's a bunch of guys who wanted to prove a point, and they couldn't."

Shields, who threw out the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game last month, has a film about her life in the works through Universal Pictures. Barry Jenkins, the director of the acclaimed movie "Moonlight," recently signed on to write the script.

"I'm not done yet," Shields said. "I have this hunger to do more and be bigger and be more known and get women's boxing on the course of being respected by everybody."

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