Heading into the final match of the 2012 World Championships, American wrestler Helen Maroulis knew she had a big task ahead of her. In order to win the 55-kilogram (121-pound) gold medal and the 2012 world title, Maroulis would have to defeat Japan's Saori Yoshida -- one of the greatest female wrestlers in history.
At 29, Yoshida is nearly nine years older than Maroulis, and during the past ten years, she has earned more Olympic and world gold medals than any other wrestler in history. Yoshida is the only wrestler who has ever won Olympic gold in the women's 55-kilogram weight class, and heading into the 2012 world championship tournament, she'd won a world title in each of her last nine attempts.
During an interview with USA Wrestling, Maroulis said she wanted a shot at defeating the defending world champion. In the final round of the tournament, the 21-year-old American got her opportunity.
But she didn't walk away with gold. Instead, Yoshida walked away with her tenth world title when she pinned Maroulis during the second period. Competing in her third world championship tournament, Maroulis earned silver and won her first world medal on Sept. 28.
"My day didn't end the way I wanted, but I had a great day and I was very pleased with my wrestling," Maroulis said during an interview with USA Wrestling. "When I saw (Yoshida) in the weigh-in, I was happy and I just remember thinking 'I want to wrestle her. I want a shot.' And I thought I could win. I went out there and I fought and it just didn't go the way I wanted."
Maroulis approached her finals match as if Yoshida was just any other wrestler, she said. She had a solid game plan heading it to the match, and she refused to put the defending world champion on a pedestal.
"With Yoshida, I kinda of had this mantra in my head … 'Fear none but God.' And it really hit me when I was about to wrestle Yoshida, like, she doesn't have to be somebody. And she wasn't," Maroulis said during her interview with USA Wrestling. "When I was going after her, I had a game plan to wrestle her style. I had a game plan to get points on the board, and it didn't work.
She added: "I didn't want to go out on a pin, but I wanted to go out fighting and I didn't want to respect someone on the mat when I'm going after a gold medal."
Read more from this author: Leigh Jaynes Fails to Earn a Medal at the 2012 World Championships
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46
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