Fri, September 20, 2013

Tonya Verbeek falls in gold medal match

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Tonya Verbeek earned her third career Olympic medal at the London Olympics on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (Bob Tymczyszyn/QMI Agency/Files)


LONDON - Tonya Verbeek of Grimsby, Ont. lost in the 55kg freestyle wrestling gold medal match to Japanese legend Saori Yoshida on Thursday night. Verbeek adds a silver medal to a silver and bronze she won in previous Olympics.

Trying to defeat Yoshida was a mission of herculean proportions. The Toyko security guard has won every major event she has ever entered and once posted 119 straight victories at the senior international level.

She won the gold in the 55kg class in the last two Olympics and is a nine-time world champion. The 29-year-old is considered the most dominate wrestler at that weight since 2004, though she narrowly beat Verbeek during the world championships in Istanbul, Turkey last summer.

Yoshida joins teammate Kaori Icho to become the first woman to win three Olympic wrestling golds.

Verbeek defeated Jackeline Renteria Castillo of Colombia in the 55kg semifinals earlier in the session to qualify for the gold medal match. Verbeek defeated Renteria Castillo by winning both rounds, 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, scoring round-winning points in three of them, including one in the semifinal.

Verbeek 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 semifinals.

It was disappointment for Pan American champion Leah Callahan of Mackenzie, B.C., who lost in two rounds to Mongolian wrestler Burmaa Ochirbat, the 2009 world championships silver medallist. Ochirbat then lost in the quarter-finals to Spain’s Maider Unda, eliminating Callahan from the tournament.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter@beezersun