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USA women’s Olympic trials: Meet the middleweights, headlined by gold medalist Claressa Shields

The middleweight division, which is a minimum of 153 pounds and a maximum of 165 pounds, is the heaviest of the three Olympic weight divisions in women’s boxing. The weight class is contested in both Pan American Games and Olympic competition as well as world championships and national events.

The United States’ own Claressa Shields won the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London at only 17-years-old. Shields enters 2016 Olympic Games qualifying as the reigning World and Pan American Games champion and was selected as the 2014 AIBA Female Athlete of the Year.

2016 Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing Middleweight Competitors

1. Claressa Shields, Flint, Mich. (USA Boxing National Championships)
2. Raquel Miller, San Diego, Calif. (USA Boxing National Championships)
3. Tika Hemingway, Brackenridge, Pa. (Olympic Trials Qualifier I)
4. Danyelle Wolf, San Diego, Calif. (Olympic Trials Qualifier I)
5. Naomi Graham, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Olympic Trials Qualifier I)
6. Franchon Crews, Baltimore, Md. (Olympic Trials Qualifier II)
7. Iesha Kenney, Alexandria, Va. (Olympic Trials Qualifier II)
8. Cierra Taylor, Rochester, N.Y. (Olympic Trials Qualifier II)

The tournament next to the athletes’ names denotes the tournament in which they qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing.

Middleweight Fun Facts

Four of the 2016 Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing middleweight competitors will be boxing in their second Olympic Trials event in Memphis. The returning participants are Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.), Raquel Miller (San Diego, Calif.), Tika Hemingway (Brackenridge, Pa.) and Franchon Crews (Baltimore, Md.).

In addition to Shields’ 2014 world title, two of the middleweight participants are World Championships medalists in different weight classes than the 165-pound weight division. Raquel Miller and Franchon Crews both took silver medals in the 2012 event, winning hardware in the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions respectively.

The documentary chronicling Claressa Shields’ improbable run to Olympic history, “T-Rex”, is currently screening across the country and is slated to be shown on PBS in 2016. The film was shown in 32 theaters in October 15 as a part of the Kickstarter campaign and screened at SXSW in Austin in March. For more on the film, click here.

The oldest flyweight competitor is Danyelle Wolf at 32-years-old and the youngest boxer in the division is 17-year-old Iesha Kenney. Kenney, a junior and youth world championships bronze medalist, is the youngest athlete in the tournament. She is currently a senior at TC Williams High School, which was featured in the movie “Remember the Titans.”

Multi-time time national champion and boxing veteran Franchon Crews has talent outside the boxing ring as well. Crews is an accomplished singer and is often chosen to sing the national anthem prior to boxing and other events. She even tried out for American Idol several years ago.

Three of the middleweight competitors, Claressa Shields, Franchon Crews and Raquel Miller, found love in the sweet science. Both Shields’ boyfriend Ardreal Holmes and Miller’s boyfriend Steven Nelson are qualified for the Olympic Trials for Men’s Boxing. Crews is married to professional boxer Glenn Dezurn who also serves as her coach.

Two-time welterweight national champion Danyelle Wolf prides herself on perfecting both her own body and others as well as a personal trainer. Wolf was previously featured on ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue.

After taking a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing, Tika Hemingway took an extended break from the sport and found herself doing a different type of boxing. She was making brown cardboard boxes at the Packaging Corporation of America before returning to the sport. Since she came so close to her Olympic dream in 2012, she decided to give it another run in 2016 and is back for her second Olympic Trials in Memphis.

Naomi Graham is the fourth military athlete competing in the Olympic Trials in Memphis. A member of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, Graham is an ammunition specialist and joined the Army in February of 2013.

Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing Information

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing will be contested October 26-31 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn. The Olympic Trials winners in the three women’s Olympic weight divisions will earn the right to represent the United States in the international qualifiers for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Twenty-four athletes will box in the Olympic Trials in Memphis and the competitors will arrive in Memphis on Friday prior to the official draw at 6:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Memphis East on Sunday. All of the athletes will learn their first round opponents at the official tournament draw, which is open to the media.

Olympic Trials competition will take place nightly at 6 p.m. at the Memphis Cook Convention Center from October 26-30 and final round action will begin at 7 p.m., on Saturday, October 31. The final Olympic Trials for Men’s Boxing qualifier will take place in conjunction with the women’s event and their competition will take place at noon daily in addition to the evening sessions, which will begin at the same time as the Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing.

The 2016 event will be only the second edition of the Olympic Trials with the inaugural tournament taking place in Spokane, Wash., in 2012. The United States placed first in the team standings in women’s boxing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London with middleweight Claressa Shields taking gold and flyweight Marlen Esparza winning bronze. The United States remains one of the strongest squads in the world in women’s boxing as the two Olympic medalists both won world titles in 2014 and then featherweight Tiara Brown claimed bronze.

The 24 Olympic Trials participants earned their berths in the event in one of three qualifying tournaments beginning with the 2015 USA Boxing National Championships in January. The two finalists from the national championships and top three finishers from qualifying tournaments in June and September all earned spots in the Olympic Trials. For more information on the Olympic qualifying process for both male and female athletes, go to www.usaboxing.org.