Greek American wrestler Helen Maroulis will compete in the Olympic women’s wrestling freestyle bronze medal match on Thursday. Maroulis will face either Khongorzul Boldsaikhan of Mongolia or Fatoumata Yarie Camara of Guinea, depending on the winner of their semifinal. Maroulis lost her 57 kg semifinal today to Risako Kawai of Japan, 2-1.
Maroulis had previously won gold in the 57 kg women’s freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She had advanced to the semis in Tokyo after defeating Ukrainian Tetyana Kit 8-0 on Tuesday. Maroulis went into the match confident after her success over Kit, but realized she had brought the wrong strategy to her match with Kawai:
“I felt like I needed to be stronger in the position so that I could kind of impose my will, and I felt a little bit more like I was reacting to her,” said Maroulis.
The match was a defensive one, with all points scored for passivity: a term used in wrestling when a wrestler does not wrestle, hold, or generally avoids engaging in wrestling with their opponent for too long. It general occurs when a wrestler is strategizing or attempting to predict their opponents movements in order to respond effectively.
“I maybe had some other options that I could have gone for, but I think I was thinking like, ‘Oh, she’s waiting for me to clear out so she can shoot,'” Maroulis said. “And I thought, ‘Let me just really defend this.’ And then I was thinking, like, ‘I’ll create my own opportunities.’ But I didn’t do it and it didn’t happen.”
How Helen Maroulis recovered to come back to the Tokyo Olympics
Despite feeling disappointment with the semifinal, Maroulis expressed gratitude for the chance to compete in Tokyo this year. The 2016 gold medalist wrestler had experienced a series of serious injuries–including a concussion– that held. her preparation back and made her doubtful of her ability to appear at the Olympics again at all. Maroulis credits the extra year leading up to Tokyo for her recovery.
“If you told me a year ago that I was going to feel this healthy today, I just — I would have probably not have believed you,” she said. “So to be here like this is like – I’m so grateful.”
Kawai will wrestle Iryna Kurachkina of Belarus for the gold medal in the final match.
Maroulis grew up in Maryland, but her father is Greek. He was raised on the island of Kalamos before coming to America at the age of 12. Speaking with Greek Reporter in 2016 after her gold medal win, Maroulis expressed her love for Greek American culture and said it was her “New Year’s resolution to become fluent in Greek,”
“I love the Greek-American community. It’s nice. My dad and I are going to eat some Greek food today, so that is always fun.”