LONDON: A popular Irish lightweight, British flyweight and American middleweight punched their way to the first Olympic women's boxing gold medals Thursday.
Katie Taylor was cheered on by raucous Irish supporters, as was Nicola Adams by the host country fans at the five-day London Games' landmark tournament.
Claressa Shields' effort was a dominant victory by an exuberant American teenager who danced, brawled and even stuck out her tongue.
Most of the crowd came to see Taylor, who claimed Ireland's first gold medal at these Olympics amid a patriotic fervor of Irish flags, songs and thousands of devoted fans who treat Taylor as a sports icon at home.
After falling to her knees at the final verdict in a 10-8 win over Russia's Sofya Ochigava, Taylor took a victory lap of the arena after the medal ceremony, trailing a green, white and orange Irish flag behind her.
Taylor's victory was perhaps the least memorable part of the afternoon. She barely beat Ochigava in a defensive fight, relying on a 4-1 points swing in the third round after trailing midway through the bout.
Unlike most of Taylor's fights, the result was still in some doubt when the judges' scores were announced. Taylor fell to her knees and looked skyward when her arm was raised, bringing an even louder roar from the fans, many of them in face paint and elaborate Irish-themed costumes.
Ochigava predicted Wednesday she would lose a close fight to the arena favorite, and Taylor's longtime foil wore an exasperated look of disbelief from the verdict's announcement to the medal ceremony. She accepted her silver medal with arms folded across her chest, refusing to acknowledge the crowd's cheers - but she hugged Taylor when all four medalists posed for photos later.
Taylor is the unofficial pound-for-pound champion of women's boxing after winning the past four world titles with an entertaining style. Ochigava is Taylor's only rival for lightweight supremacy, and the Russian criticized Taylor on Wednesday after both fighters won semifinal bouts, saying her Irish foe gets star treatment from referees and judges.
Adams got nearly as much crowd support at Taylor, but her victory was even more impressive. She stunned world champion Ren Cancan of China in a 16-7 victory with cheers from a crowd that included the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly Kate Middleton.
Adams knocked down Ren - a rare occurrence in such a high-level amateur fight - in the second round with a left to the throat and a right to the head. She eventually finished off the top-seeded flyweight in impressive style, dominating the middle rounds by a combined 10-3.
Adams celebrated the final bell by throwing a few punches at the roaring home crowd. Adams' two British teammates also were favored to win a medal, but lost early.
"It is a dream come true," Adams said. "I am so happy and overwhelmed with joy right now. I have wanted this all my life, and I have done it."
Shields capped her rapid rise through the amateur ranks in the past two years with three dominant performances in the London ring. Her power and elusiveness were far too much for Russia's 33-year-old Nadezda Torlopova, nearly twice Shields' age and half her speed at times.
Few boxers in the tournament could match Shields' showmanship during a 19-12 victory over Torlopova.
The teenager won the 12-member American team's only gold medal in London. The most successful nation in Olympic boxing history got no medals from its men's team for the first time, and flyweight Marlen Esparza won a bronze.