LONDON, England, United Kingdom — Clarissa Chun made history on Wednesday by becoming the first American to win a medal in Wrestling at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She did so by winning the bronze medal in the Women’s Freestyle 48 kg (105.5 lbs) division at the halfway point of the 8-day wrestling competition.
The win also makes Chun just the fourth American woman to medal in Wrestling at the Olympics, since the sport was added for women’s competition in 2004. MMA fighters Sara McMann and Randi Miller, along with Patricia Miranda are the only other American women to medal in Wrestling at the Olympics. Coincidentally, Chun beat Miranda in the 2008 U.S. Trials to make the 2008 Olympic Team.
In 2008, Chun made her Olympic debut in Beijing, China and made it to the Semi-Finals before losing to eventual silver medalist Chiharu Icho of Japan. The loss sent her to the Bronze Medal match against 2004 defending Olympic champion Iryna Merleni of Ukraine. Merleni would defeat Chun in straight periods (2-0, 4-1). Despite not medaling four years ago, Chun rebounded by winning the World title just two months later.
Chun also used her first Olympic experience, as a valuable learning experience heading into the Olympic Trials this past April, where she defeated Alyssa Lampe via 2 matches to 1. The win sent the Hawaii native to London three months later, where she looked to improve upon her Olympic finish from four years ago.
Chun started her day in the Qualification round by defeating two-time Asian champion Zhao Shasha of China (5-0, 1-0). The win advanced her to the 1/8 Finals against the other 2008 bronze medalist Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan. Stadnik won 2-0, 3-0, but Chun remained calm, knowing that she still had a chance to wrestle back in the Repechage round if Stadnik were to advance to the Final.
"This time, I learned from Beijing that I didn’t get in the emotional roller coaster ride. I just stayed calm, cool, and collected for the opportunity. I’m just so grateful for every opportunity I have to step on the mat," explained Chun.
As fate would have it, Stadnik would defeat World bronze medalist Iwona Matkowska of Poland (2-0, 4-1) and former Olympic champion and Olympic bronze medalist Merleni of Ukraine (1-0, 3-0) to advance to the Final.
In the Repechage round, Chun would face Matkowska. After dropping the first period 1-0 due to her Polish opponent finishing in the leg clinch, Chun came out firing on all cylinders in the second period. The 4’11" Chun would launch Matkowska to her back to secure a dramatic match-ending fall for the win.
The win earned Chun a trip to the Bronze Medal match in what would be a rematch with Merleni from her Bronze Medal match in 2008. Chun used this opportunity to avenge that loss. Merleni was also the Olympic gold medalist from 2004, prior to defeating Chun for the bronze medal in 2008.
Chun came out with a bit of strategy combined with well-timed technique against her Ukrainian opponent. She strategically timed a double-leg takedown, just as time was winding down in the first period and finished it with just three seconds left to take the first period. Then once again, late in the second period, Chun delivered a big 3-point arm throw and held on to win (1-0, 3-0).
The win gave Chun the bronze medal and a place in history, as one of the most successful female American wrestlers. The other bronze medalist was Carol Huynh of Canada, while 8-time world champion Hitomi Obara of Japan won the gold medal. She did so by defeating Stadnik, who took home the silver medal. You can keep up-to-date on Clarissa Chun and her Wrestling career by liking her Facebook page or following her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ClarissaChun.