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Clarissa Chun uses judo move to clinch America’s first medal in London
LONDON, England — Clarissa Chun had a judo background before getting involved in wrestling in her native Hawaii. The 30-year-old woman used that to her advantage when Chun executed an arm throw to help beat Ukrainian Irini Merleni, 1-0, 3-0, for an Olympic bronze medal at 105.5 pounds in the ExCel Center.
Chun’s move came after it looked like Merleni — who pinned Chun in the 2008 Olympic bronze medal match — was about to score a takedown in the second period of their match. Chun also showed a relentless no-quit style in the first period when she scored a takedown with two seconds let in the first period.
“She was getting around behind me. I thought, ‘If I let my knee drop, she gets one. I thought I’m just going to throw myself and not roll so I wouldn’t get caught on my back. I knew I had to go for it because she was already behind me,” Chun said.
“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.”
Chun now has an Olympic medal to go with the 2008 World championship she won one month after the Beijing Games. (FILA hosted a separate women’s World tournament that year because only four of the seven weights are contested in the Olympics.)
“It’s not the color I imagined, but I’m happy,” she said. “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 (then).”
It appeared that Chun might not even reach the bronze medal match when she lost the first period of her repechage (consolation) match with Poland’s Iwona Matkowska, who won the first period with an overtime leg clinch. In the second period, Chun first scored on a push-out, then caught the Polish in a front headlock and pinned her with 36 seconds left.
“I hit that front headlock roll on her in the past,” she said. “(Coach) Izzy reminded me of that, that it was there if I got in that situation. I thought I’m not going to stop squeezing her head off until I get a pin.”
In her earlier matches, Chun got the U.S. team off on the right foot beating a twotime World bronze medalist Shasha Zhao handily. The 30-year-old Hawaiian struck first on snap-down for a takedown at the 1:18 mark, then gutted Zhao twice for two each time in the next 11 seconds and went on to win 5-0.
The only scoring in the second period came on a Chun double at 2:04 off an overtime clinch after Chun pulled her own color on the ball draw.
Unfortunately for Chun, she did not have the same luck or skill in her second match against Azerbaijan’s Mariya Stadnyk, the 2009 World champ and 2011 World silver medalist.
Stadnyk struck first with two takedowns in the first period for the 2-0 win. The aggressive former World champ controlled the tempo of the second period as well. She got a double on the edge 12 seconds into the period, then added two more takedowns for the 3-0 lead. The second came at the 1:15 mark after a failed Chun arm spin.