OTC resident putting heartache behind her

September 22, 2008

When she watches, she gets upset. Usually, she cries.

Video of the Beijing Games turns Clarissa Chun, one of the nation's tougher female wrestlers and perhaps the toughest at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, into a tearful, sobbing mess.

"It hurts being that close and not having it," Chun said Monday of the Olympic medal she didn't win, pinned by Ukrainian Irini Merleni after a 1-0, 0-3, 1-1 loss to Japan's Chiharu Icho in the 105.5-pound freestyle semifinals.

The first Hawaiian to make an Olympic wrestling team, Chun, 27, of Honolulu, expunged some heartache Saturday in her first tournament since Beijing by qualifying for the world championships.

She rallied in a 5-3, 4-0 semifinal victory over Victoria Anthony and swept Alyssa Lampe in a best-of-three championship series at the OTC, securing a berth in the Oct. 11-13 event in Tokyo.

There's a chance Chun could face Merleni, a gold medalist at the 2004 Games, and Icho, a silver medalist in the 2008 and 2004 Games, in the world championships.

In Beijing, Icho scored the winning point against Chun on a push-out with less than a minute remaining in the third period, and Merleni won the first against Chun, then pinned her with 54 seconds left in the second.

"I could not let go of my semifinal match," Chun said of losing to Merleni. "It was still for a bronze medal, and I was like, ‘It should have been me going for the gold.' It was a tough match."

Against Icho, Chun said, "I didn't know where I was until it was too late. ... If she took me down, it would have been more respectable. It was a push-out. It was my fault."

Chun lamented not being able to attend a Sept. 3 taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in Chicago, in which the talk show host welcomed more than 150 Olympic medalists, including Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin.

"Oh man, I could have met Oprah," Chun said.

After the world championships, Chun, born to a Japanese mother and a Chinese father, plans to stay in Japan at least a year to teach English to kindergarteners.

In her downtime, she will keep wrestling in preparation for the 2012 London Games, and she'll use vacation days to travel to international competitions, possibly the World Cup in March in China.

"I want to come back for London," Chun said. "I'm not going anywhere."


Contact the Writer: 636-0256 or brian.gomez@gazette.com. Check out our Olympics blog at gazetteolympics.freedomblogging.com


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