T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold
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Her Fight for Gold

  • BY Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari | IN Women & Girls
    Premiered August 2, 2016

About the Film

Flint, a city made famous by Michael Moore's documentary Roger & Me, and more recently by the lead poisoning water crisis, has been hard-hit for years as factories closed, jobs left, and crime, unemployment, and poverty became endemic. It's the most unlikely and challenging of backgrounds for an Olympic athlete to make it through. But Claressa “T-Rex” Shields is as tough as they come.

T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold is the coming-of-age story of boxing phenom Claressa Shields, who was just 17 years old when she won the Olympic gold medal for women’s boxing in 2012. Now with a record of 69-1, she is ranked number one in the world heading into her second Olympic competition, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games. MORE

Shields was 13 years old when it was announced that women would for the very first time compete in boxing at the 2012 London Olympics. Although she’d only been boxing for two years, her coach, Jason Crutchfield, predicted she'd be there — and that she'd win gold. It seemed an audacious dream for Shields, whose prior aspirations included having ten kids by the time she was 26, and who grew up bouncing between homes while her father was in prison and her mother struggled with addiction. To accomplish her dream, she would need a stable life. Coach Jason and his family took her in, housed her, and kept her focused.

The film traces her rise as an Olympic athlete from the streets of Flint to the podium in London, and the subsequent challenges and disappointments as Claressa watches fellow athletes receive recognition and endorsements while none come forward to support her, raising questions about race, class, and gender bias. Agents suggest she should soften her image, but Claressa is her own person, ready to push the boundaries while fighting for another gold and a better life.

The Filmmakers

Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper (Directors) have been working together since 2009. They’ve produced and directed the award-winning online short documentary series California Is a place. With over ten million views online, the films have screened at film festivals around the world, including Sundance. Their compelling visual style and deeply personal storytelling has earned Cooper and Canepari award nominations from IDFA DocLab for Best Digital Storytelling and Documentary Project of the Year by POYi (Pictures of the Year International). The directing duo landed on Filmmaker Magazine’s Top 25 New Filmmakers to Watch list. They’re also an accomplished commercial directing team.

Sue Jaye Johnson (Producer) began documenting Shields in 2011 at her first elite boxing tournament. She then spearheaded an unprecedented collaboration between The New York Times, NPR and WNYC to document the first women to box in the Olympics. “Teen Contender,” the feature radio documentary she co-produced with Radio Diaries, followed Claressa’s journey to the Olympics and won a Peabody Award.


Film Credits

Directed by
Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari

Produced by
Sue Jaye Johnson

Additional Producers
Bianca Darville
Gary Kout
Zackary Canepari
Drea Cooper

Edited by
Jean Kawahara
Drea Cooper

Original Music by
Matthew Joynt
Nathan Sandberg

Cinematography by
Zackary Canepari
Drea Cooper

Rebecca Saladoff

Associate Producer
Lauren Crew

Executive Producers
Zackary Canepari
Drea Cooper

(in order of appearance)

Claressa Shields
Jason Crutchfield
Sarah Deming
Ariel Levy
Jim Caple
Christy Halbert
Briana Shields
Marcella Adams
Michelann Rouse
Jayden Crutchfield
Ardreal Holmes
Clarence Shields
Gloria Peek
Basheer Abdullah
Michelle Shields
Lisa Shields
Ed ‘Bean’ Kendall
Liz Clarke
Anthony Bukowski
Julie Goldsticker

Additional Cinematography
Sue Jaye Johnson
Vanessa Carr
Joe Rivera
Maisie Crow

1st Assistant Camera
Alex Klein

Patrick Pask

Production Assistants
Brian LaForge
Arthur Adams
Natalie Darville

Slow Motion Photography by
Slim Pictures

Assistant Editors
Rebecca Saladoff
Vanessa Carr

Additional Editorial
Blake Bogosian

Chris Martin

Post Production Services

Sound Design and Re-Recording
Jeremiah Moore

Dialogue Editor
Andrew Roth

Additional Dialogue Editing
Max Hirtenstein


Clara Lyon
Emer Kinsella

Russell Rolen

Aaron Graham

Music Supervisors
Jonathan Partch
Mike Meeker

Audio Excerpts from Radio Diaries
Sue Jaye Johnson
Joe Richman
Samara Freemark

Transcription Services
Clerk Reporting Services
Type-Right, Inc.
A Scribe Transcripts

Susan Eslick

Legal Counsel
Donaldson + Califf, LLP
George M. Rush

Gales Creek Insurance Services

Archival Footage
ABC12 WJRT Flint
Comedy Central - The Colbert Report
Jason Crutchfield
Claressa Shields

Use of Olympic footage authorized by the IOC and by the USOC (36 U.S.C. § 220506)

“The Low”
Written by Matthew Joynt and Nathan Sandberg
Featuring Sasha Go Hard and Katie Got Bandz

Special Thanks
Shoham Arad
Chris Aysta
Backyard Films
Eric Bailey
Christopher Barnett
Melissa Bell
Jake Brown
Stephen Brown
Tiara Brown
Carey Burens
Lyric R. Cabral
Franchon Crews
The Crutchfield Family
Christina Cruz
Jessica Dimmock
The Dirrell Family
The Dolnick Family
Marlen Esparza
Adam Ferguson
Jim Frohna
Cary Fukunaga
FWC Berston Gym
Adam Garcia
Ryan Garza
The Holmes Family
Independent Filmmaker Project
Gary Irwin
Becky Korman
Brian Lagerhausen
Jasmin Lopez
Alex Love
TJ Martin and Dan Lindsay
Mikaela Mayer
Marianne McCune
Raquel Miller
Bryant Nolden
Northwest High School
The Oster Family
The Panos Pictures Family
Luis Pena
Dwane Platt
Lisa Polen
The Ranahan Family
Joe Richman
Raquel Ruiz
Susan Saladoff
Ben Shapiro
The Shields Family
The Simmons Family
Team USA Boxing
Tracy Droz Tragos
Queen Underwood
The Werehaus Crew
The Whitehorse Tavern
Danny Wilson
Malia Wollan
Eric Woodyard
Jason Zeldes and Michael Klein
Andrew Zolli
Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Fiscal Sponsor
International Documentary Association

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Supervising Producer for ITVS
Jen Gilomen

Funding provided by
David J. & Diane M. Canepari
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Nikos Katsaounis
Ronald Lo
Lee Dempsey
Marc Plonskier
Jane Saks
and others. A complete list is available from PBS.

T-Rex is a co-production of ZCDC LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This program was produced by ZCDC LLC which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2015, ZCDC LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Who are some of your other favorite female Olympic athletes? How will Claressa's story encourage other girls to compete in sports? Have you or will you watch women's boxing?


  • Hot Docs Film Festival
    Student Choice Award
  • San Francisco International Film Festival
    Audience Award - Best Documentary Feature
  • Traverse City Film Festival
    Roger Ebert Prize for Best Film by First Time Filmmaker
  • Sidewalk Film Festival
    Best Documentary Feature
  • SXSW Film Festival
    World Premiere
Please review our comment guidelines.
Who are some of your other favorite female Olympic athletes? How will Claressa's story encourage other girls to compete in sports? Have you or will you watch women's boxing?