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Helen Maroulis Trained With Champions to Become the First American Woman Wrestler to Win Gold

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Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

A day after becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling, Helen Maroulis was asked whether she would continue on to Tokyo 2020. The answer was a confident yes.

Three years ago, it seemed like she would never have the chance. In February 2013, the IOC Executive Board voted to cut both women’s and men’s wrestling from the Olympic program after Rio. The national federations unified, rallied hard, and promised to change. In September of that year, wrestling was voted back in for 2020 and 2024.

The reforms included new rules and an equal number of weight classes for men and women. Maroulis, like everybody, would have to adjust – and the rejiggered weight classes put her on a collision course with three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan, whom the American hadn’t beaten in their two previous meetings. But on Thursday Maroulis upset Yoshida and made history.

Entering the Olympics, 75 kg wrestler Adeline Gray had gotten most of the national attention. But it’s Maroulis who will leave Rio as the most accomplished American Olympic woman wrestler.

Maroulis on the medal stand. Photo by Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, a relaxed Maroulis explained how she did it.

By the time Maroulis got to Rio, she had made the cut from the (non-Olympic) 55kg class to 53kg only twice before – at the U.S. Olympic Trials and 10 days later for an international Olympic qualifier in Mongolia.

Even though she said cutting in Rio was the easiest of the three, she added, “I didn’t sleep the night before the [weigh-in] because – my body just hurts.”

The night before the competition, she didn’t sleep either. “I was just so excited. It wasn’t a feeling of: I can’t wait to get this over with; it was more like I ….View full article