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Clarissa Chun delivers to capture bronze medal at Olympic Games



Clarissa Chun captured an Olympic bronze medal on Wednesday night. John Sachs photo.

LONDON – Clarissa Chun ran around the mat, holding the United States flag over her head with a huge smile on her face.

The sellout crowd of 6,500 fans stood and cheered.

She didn’t win the gold medal she planning on winning here at the 2012 Olympic Games.

But the bronze medal she captured on the sport’s biggest stage still provided a special moment for the 30-year-old from Hawaii.

Chun knocked off 2004 Olympic gold medalist and three-time World champion Irini Merleni of Ukraine 1-0, 3-0 to capture a bronze medal in women's freestyle wrestling on Wednesday night at the ExCeL North Arena 2.

"This time, I learned from Beijing that I didn’t get in the emotional roller coaster ride," said Chun, who placed fifth in the 2008 Olympics. "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.

"It’s not the color I imagined, but I’m happy. Gold is what I strive for, but I’m happy with the bronze. For me, it was about finishing strong. That’s the difference I made from Beijing when I lost in the semis. I was a nervous wreck after I lost in 2008."

By winning an Olympic bronze medal, Chun will receive $25,000 from the Living the Dream Medal Fund, a special program supported by the wrestling community.

Chun's bronze-medal win gives the U.S. its first wrestling medal of this Olympics at the halfway point of the eight-day competition.

Four years after nearly making the finals of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, Chun came back strong to earn a spot on the medal podium at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Chun fired in for a clutch double-leg takedown on Merleni and finished with just three seconds left to take the first period 1-0 at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. Chun, a 2008 World champion, then delivered with a huge three-point arm throw late in the second period en route to earning the bronze.

Chun avenged a loss to Merleni from the bronze-medal match at the 2008 Olympics.

"Clarissa's gone through a lot of tough times," U.S. Coach Terry Steiner said. "To hold things together and believe she could do it here is really impressive. She's just an unbelievable athlete and a super human being on top of that. I'm so happy for her."

Chun qualified for the bronze-medal match by launching World bronze medalist Iwona Matkowska of Poland to her back and recording a dramatic second-period fall in the repechage. Chun dropped the first period after Matkowska finished in the leg clinch, but Chun came back aggressively in the second period to prevail.

Chun opened with a 5-0, 1-0 victory over two-time World bronze medalist Shasha Zhou of China. Chun spun behind Zhou for a takedown before adding a pair of two-point gut wrenches in the first period. Chun won a ball draw after a scoreless second period and finished in the leg clinch to prevail.

Chun ran into 2009 World champion Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan in the second round. The powerful Stadnyk took control early to earn a 2-0, 3-0 victory over Chun, the first U.S. woman to compete in two Olympics in wrestling.

Chun received a chance to wrestle back after Stadnyk advanced to the finals.

Chun beat an Olympic champion and two World bronze medalists on Wednesday.

American Elena Pirozhkova dropped her first match in three periods to 2012 European runner-up Anastasija Grigorjeva of Latvia. Pirozhkova won the first period 2-0 on a pair of takedowns before the Latvian prevailed 5-0, 2-0 in the final two periods at 63 kg/138.75 lbs.

“She definitely had a good strategy,” Pirozhkova said. “She kept pressuring me and trying to wear me out. I felt pretty confident going into the match. I had studied her and had a good game plan. But it was a higher pace than I expected. I couldn’t sustain the match pace. I have a lot more conditioning I need to work on.”

Pirozhkova was eliminated when Grigorjeva fell short of reaching the finals.

“We didn’t find a way to slow her down and raise our level up,” U.S. Assistant Coach Vladislav Izboinikov said. “We just got exposed out there. We have to be able to wrestle at a higher pace and get in the fight. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that today.”

Day 5 of the eight-day Olympic wrestling tournament is scheduled for Thursday at the ExCel Center. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (8 a.m. Eastern Time) in London. Fans can watch a live webcast of the event on nbcolympics.com.

Americans Kelsey Campbell (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) and Ali Bernard (New Ulm, Minn./Gator WC) are scheduled to compete on Thursday. Campbell competes at 55 kg/121 lbs. and Bernard wrestles at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.

Campbell placed fifth in the 2010 World Championships at 59 kg/130 lbs. Bernard placed third in the 2011 Worlds and fifth in the 2008 Olympic Games.

OLYMPIC GAMES
ExCeL Center, London, England

Wednesday’s medal winners

48 kg/105.5 lbs.
Gold – Hitomi Sakamoto Obara (Japan)
Silver – Maria Stadnyk (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – Clarissa Chun (USA)
Bronze – Carol Huynh (Canada)

63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Gold – Kaori Icho (Japan)
Silver – Rui Xue Jing (China)
Bronze – Nasanburmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia)
Bronze – Lyubov Volossova (Russia)

Finals matchups

48 kg/105.5 lbs.
Hitomi Sakamoto Obara (Japan) dec. Maria Stadnyk (Azerbaijan), 0-4, 1-0, 2-0

63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Kaori Icho (Japan) dec. Rui Xue Jing (China), 3-0, 2-0

U.S. results

48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Clarissa Chun, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) – 3rd
WIN Shasha Zhou (China), 5-0, 1-0
LOSS Maria Stadnyk (Azerbaijan), 0-2, 0-3
WIN Iwona Matkowska (Poland), 0-1, fall 0:36
WIN Irini Merleni (Ukraine), 1-0, 3-0

63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Elena Pirozhkova, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
LOSS Anastasija Grigorjeva (Latvia), 2-0, 0-5, 0-2
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