Japan's Icho captures historic wrestling gold

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 08, 2012
Kaori Icho's cold, tense stare never changed as she wiped out opponent after helpless opponent. It was only when Icho sealed her third straight Olympic gold medal that she showed the world how relieved she was to have done it again. Icho won the women's 63-kilogram freestyle division Wednesday at the London Games, becoming the first Japanese woman to capture the same event in three straights Olympics. Icho beat Ruixue Jing of China 3-0, 2-0, extending her winning streak to 72 matches. When it was over, a beaming Icho pumped her fist to the large contingent of Japanese fans who chanted her name during the final. Her intimidating gaze was gone, replaced by smiles, waves and the obligatory medal display to the crowd. ''I feel I have big responsibility in fighting at the Olympic Games,'' Icho said. ''I burst into happiness just after I finished fighting. Thanks to the people who supported me, they helped me win.'' Hitomi Obara made it a sweep for Japan, winning her first Olympic gold medal in women's 48-kilogram freestyle wrestling by rallying to beat Mariya Stadnyk of Azerbaijan 0-4, 1-0, 2-0. Canada's Carol Huynh of Canada and American Clarissa Chun won bronze, with Chun giving the U.S. its first wrestling medal of the London Games. As for Icho, she and Russian legend Alexander Karelin are the only wrestlers to win three straight golds in a specific weight class. She didn't look like the massive Karelin in her bright white shoes and a light blue singlet featuring a glowing golden tiger. But after allowing Canadian Martine Dugrenier to score a point in the opener, Icho exerted her will on the field. Sweden's Henna Johansson came out to face Icho in the quarterfinals with a wide-eyed look on her face. It was as though Johansson was trying to convince herself it was just another match. It wasn't. The expressionless Icho thumped her 1-0, 4-0 to move on to the semifinals against Mongolia's Battsetseg Soronzonbold. Soronzonbold was impressive on Wednesday, even slamming an early opponent to the mat from her shoulders. But Icho had no trouble at all with her, winning 1-0, 4-0 as if it was a light training session. Icho switched to the red singlet for the final, and from the moment the horn sounded Jing was fighting simply to stay on her feet. Jing seemed thrilled with silver on the medal stand. Given how dominant Icho is, she probably should be. Icho's last loss was actually a forfeit at the 2007 Asian championships. The last time anyone beat on the mat was when Sara McMann of the U.S. accomplished the feat in 2003. Despite the dominant run, Icho would not commit to the Rio Games in 2016. ''These three Olympics have gone by so fast,'' Icho said. Obara has won six world titles at 51 kilograms, a non-Olympic weight, and she took the last two world titles at 48 kilograms. She, like Icho, was the heavy favorite to win gold after cruising to the final. But Stadnyk made Obara work for her gold. Stadnyk won the first period convincingly, and Obara had to either pin her or win the last two frames. Obara couldn't get the fall, but a push out and a takedown in the third period was enough. The 31-year-old Obara, who has left the sport and returned to it more than once, collapsed to her knees and began weeping when she realized she finally had an Olympic gold medal to put next to all those world titles. ''I thought I was going to lose,'' said Obara, who also beat Stadnyk in the 2011 world championship final. ''Thanks to the advice of my coach and supervisor, I was able to switch my mental (state) and then I was able to carry on the match.'' After three days of trudging back to the Olympic Village without a medal, the Americans looked to be in rough shape again when Elena Pirozhkova and Chun lost early matches. Chun was dominant in taking down China's Zhao Shasha in her first match. But she drew Stadnyk in the round of 16 - an unlucky draw considering Chun won the world championship just four years ago and was fifth in Beijing - and fell 2-0, 3-0. Pirozhkova didn't earn a spot in the consolation bracket. Chun did, and she preserved through the repechage to bring a sense of relief to the Americans. Chun wrestled her way back into a bronze-medal matchup with Ukrainian Irina Merleni, who beat Chun for bronze in the same scenario in 2008. Chun scored late to take the first period, then sealed the win with three points in the second frame. ''It was like redemption time,'' Chun said. ''I learned from Beijing. ... I just stayed, collected and excited for the opportunity.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name every NFL regular season MVP

WATCH: Avery Bradley nails buzzer beater to beat Cavs

WATCH: Jimmy Butler taken to locker room in wheel chair

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

Olympic Wrestling News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker