Canadian wrestler Tonya Verbeek going for gold
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
Canada's Tonya Lynn Verbeek (R) wrestles Colombia's Jackeline Renteria Castillo to win their Women's 55kg Freestyle semifinal match on August 9, 2012. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI
LONDON - Defending Olympic 55kg freestyle wrestling bronze medallist Tonya Verbeek of Grimsby, Ont., defeated Jackeline Renteria Castillo of Colombia in the 55kg semifinals on Thursday afternoon to qualify for the gold medal match later in the evening.
Verbeek has already won medals at the 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens Games and London will represent her third Olympic medal. She has never won gold. She will meet Saori Yoshida of Japan for gold.
Verbeek, 34, defeated Renteria Castillo by winning both rounds of the semi, scoring points with a double-leg takedown in the second round off a clinch. Verbeek went into a clinch situation four times in her three matches, winning three of them, including one in the semi.
She opened the tournament with a win over Asian bronze medallist Geeta Geeta of India. Just like the bronze medal match won by her teammate Carol Huynh in the 48kg category the night before, twice in Verbeek’s opening match, rounds where decided by the clinch system — where a colour ball, selected randomly, determines which wrestler is put in an offensive position (given a single leg) and which in a defensive position. After the first and second rounds ended 0-0, the colour of the ball corresponded to the colour of Geeta’s singlet (blue) and the Indian was put in the offensive position both times. The first time, Verbeek managed to prevent Geeta from scoring a point in 30 seconds, and therefore won the round. In the second round, Geeta managed to turn Verbeek for points and won that round. With one round each heading into the third, Verbeek took control and scored three points on a double leg takedown to win the match and move on to the quarters.
Verbeek then went on to defeat four-time world championship medallist Tetyana Lazareva of the Ukraine in two rounds, once again winning a round after going on the defensive in the clinch, to move on to the semis.
Verbeek won the bronze in 2008 in Beijing and a silver in 2004 in Athens in the 55kg division.
It was disappointment for Pan American champion Leah Callahan of St. John’s, Nfld. lost in the first round to Mongolian wrestler Burmaa Ochirbat, the 2009 world championships silver medallist in two rounds. Ochirbat then lost in the quarter-finals to Spain’s Maider Unda in the quarters, eliminating the Callahan from the tournament.