Delhi Gold Medalist Huynh Takes Bronze In London

With a lot of skill and a bit of good fortune, Carol Huynh won her second women’s 48-kilogram freestyle wrestling medal Wednesday, capturing bronze to go with her gold at Beijing 2008.

After losing in the semi-finals on Day 12 to the top-ranked Hitomi Obara of Japan, the Hazelton, B.C., native defeated Senegal’s Isabelle Sambou 1-0, 1-0 in her bronze-medal match.

No points were scored in the first two minutes of either round, and Huynh managed to have her ball drawn twice, giving the Calgary-based wrestler the advantage in the sudden-death clinch. Both times, the 31-year-old was able to take Sambou down for a point within four seconds.

"I'd prefer it was gold, but I'll take bronze. I'm just so happy to be here and represent Canada," said Huynh, whose parents immigrated to the country in 1980 as refugees from Vietnam.

Both competitors started the match very tentatively. Huynh went for a quick takedown in the first minute but Sambou would not release the grip on her hands. Later, a great sprawl by Huynh kept Sambou from turning her, before the referee warned both about holding the other’s wrists.

After a scoreless regulation, Sambou drew a random ball to determine who would have the better position for the extra 30-second frame. It came up Huynh’s blue, meaning she would have 30 seconds to score a point or else Sambou would win the round. But with Sambou forced to start with her left leg forward, Huynh had little trouble lifting and taking her sideways onto the mat.

Both fighters stayed on the defensive in the second round with neither giving the other an opening. Again it went to added time, and Huynh luckily drew the one blue ball of the three remaining in the bag. From there, she was able to produce a carbon copy of the first-round finish for the victory.

"I feel amazing. I feel happy. I feel relieved," Huynh said afterward. "At the end of that match, I was feeling elated that I'd won another medal for Canada but, at the same time, I wanted to go out with a little more flair. I didn't want it to end in two clinches."

Huynh showed plenty of flair earlier in the day, winning her first match over Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Lua with a 34-second pin and her second with two dominant rounds over Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus.

But Huynh, who works with the University of Calgary Dinos Wrestling Club and teaches high-school wrestling, could not match the quickness of Obara in a 2-0, 2-1 loss to the two-time defending world champion. Huynh surrendered an early takedown in each of the first two rounds and she was never able to make up a two-point deficit.

Obara went on to win the gold-medal final over Mariya Stadnyk of Azerbaijan. Stadnyk surprisingly dominated the first round, taking Obara down a couple of times for a 4-0 score. But Obara returned to the form that saw her win eight total world championship gold medals with a 1-0 second round and a 2-0 third to seal her first Olympic title.

Clarissa Chun of the U.S., a friend and occasional training partner of Huynh, won the other 48kg bronze medal with a 1-0, 3-0 win over Ukraine’s Irini Merleni .

Martine Dugrenier of Laval, Que., had a chance to give Canada two bronze medals in women's wrestling on Wednesday, but she lost her bronze-medal match in the 63kg division to Battsetseg Soronzonbold of Mongolia 2-0, 1-0. Dugrenier dropped her opening match to eventual champion Kaori Icho , who gave Japan its second women’s wrestling gold medal of the day.

Huynh, who became Canada's first woman to win an Olympic wrestling title four years ago, is one of two Canadian women to win Olympic medals, along with Grimsby, Ont.’s Tonya Verbeek , who also has two. Verbeek, who won silver at Athens 2004 and bronze at Beijing 2008, has a chance to win her third on Thursday in the 55kg division.

Leah Callahan of St. John’s is the fourth woman on the Canadian wrestling team at London 2012. She will compete in the 72kg weight class on Day 13.

James Brydon, Staff