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By Mike Finn
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of 11 weekly previews of the of this summer’s Olympics in London. In next week’s WIN eNews, we will look at the 138.75 and 158-pound weight classes in women’s freestyle. After that, look for previews in Greco-Roman, then men’s freestyle.)
48 kilos / 105.5 pounds (Competition held August 8, 2012)
U.S. Entry: Clarissa Chun, 30, Honolulu, Hawaii
Chun actually represented the United States at the 2000 World Championships — Olympic competition did not begin until 2004 — while subbing for women’s wrestling pioneer Patricia Saunders but waited eight years before another shot at competing on the highest international level.
In 2008, Chun became the American woman to beat at this weight class. She first stunned 2004 Olympian Patricia Miranda to earn a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team and finished fifth in Beijing, where she won her first two matches — against Sofia Mattsson of Sweden and Vanessa Boubryemm of France before losing to Japan’s Chiharu Icho and Irini Merlini of Ukraine (in the bronze medal match).
One month later, she competed in the 2008 Worlds — FILA also offered a World Championship for women’s wrestling that year — and captured a gold medal.
Unfortunately since that banner year, Chun — who was a two-time state champion for Roosevelt High School in Honolulu — has not finished higher than seventh in World competition. She was injured and failed to make the 2010 team, when Alyssa Lampe — who finished second to Chun in this year’s Olympic Trials —finished 20th.
• Hitomi Sakamoto, Japan — The two-time World champion (2010-11) is the latest of strong Japanese women and replaced 2008 Olympic silver medalist Chiharu Icho. Prior to that, she competed at 51 kilos (112 pounds) and also won six other World championships in 2000, ’01, ’05, ’06, ’07 and ’08 (when she defeated American Helen Maroulis).
• Carol Huynh, Canada — Born in British Columbia to parents who were refugees of Vietnam, Huynh became Canada’s second Olympic medal winner and first-time champion in 2008 when she defeated Japan’s Chiharu Icho in the gold medal match. Since Beijing, Huynh has only placed in one other World Championship when she settled for a bronze medal in the 2010 Worlds.
• Maria Stadnyk, Azerbaijian — In the five international events since 2008, Stadnyk has medaled in three: claiming bronze in the 2008 Olympics, winning gold in the 2009 Worlds and finishing second in last year’s Worlds to Sakamoto. In the 2011 Worlds, Stadnyk also defeated Chun in the semifinals.
55 kilos / 121 pounds (Competition held August 9)
U.S. Entry: Kelsey Campbell, 26, Milwaukie, Ore.
After competing in the last two World Championships at 59 kilos (130 pounds), the former member of the Arizona State men’s team dropped down one weight and knocked off fellow 2011 World Team member Helen Maroulis in this year’s Olympic Trials.
In her two World competitions, Campbell is 3-3 overall. That includes a 3-2 record in the 2010 Worlds where she won her first three bouts before dropping a semifinal match to China’s Lan Zhang and the bronze medal match to Johanna Mattson of Sweden. In the 2010 Worlds, Campbell lost her only bout to Agata Pietrzyk of Poland.
Campbell became the third different American woman at this Olympic weight. In 2004, Tela O’Donnell did not place. In 2008, Marcie Van Dusen claimed ninth place.
Saori Yoshida, Japan — There may be no more of a prohibitive favorite than this 29-year-old wrestler who is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2004 and 2008) and has won nine straight World Championships since 2002.
During the last four years, Yoshida has faced two Americans in World competition; defeating Tatiana Padilla in the 2010 Worlds and pinning Helen Maroulis in last year’s Worlds.
Tonya Verbeek, Canada — The 35-year-old native of Ontario became the first Canadian woman to earn an Olympic medal when she won a silver medal in 2004 and then added a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In the World Championships, Verbeek has also collected three medals: claiming silver in last year’s Worlds (where she lost to Japan’s Yoshida) and two bronze medals in 2005 and 2009.