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3 Time Olympic Wrestling Champion Saori Yoshida on her London 2012 Gold | Olympic Rewind


London were my third games in a row, so there was a lot of pressure… on me and London was the Olympics that I was the most nervous about. From coming into the venue and stepping up to the mat, people were supporting me… with Saori banners and waving the japanese flag, so even though it was in London… it felt much more like fighting at home, which was really inspiring. The Canadian wrestler Tonya Verbeek is a rival of mine I always come up against… in the semis or the final of the Olympics. We have been fighting each other for a long time, so she knew my wrestling and I knew hers, we knew each other inside out as opponents. I was thinking that the only thing I could do was somehow to deceive her, anticipate her and get in my take downs. I was looking to score points before she did, if you call it a strategy, to get the points on the board first. I’m initially looking to make sure I go out and score the points, to make it easier for myself to get through the bout. If you keep trying too hard to get in, timing wise you can end up… playing into your opponent’s hands, so before I made a take down… I’ll be working to somehow disrupt them, to try and confuse my opponent. Half way through the period I made a take down to take a 3 point lead, it was a relief and I was pleased that I had gone for it. I can hardly remember my coach’s advice. I just remember him saying… that it was two more minutes and to fight like my life depended on it. I suppose I could have gone in more quickly if I had set out to do that, but obviously it is a contest, so I had my tactics, and I did not quite have the nerve to go in. The periods were two minutes long in London, so I would be watching the time, thinking I have to go for it now. It was about being able to go in for the take down when the moment came. I might have been alone on the mat, but there were a lot of Japanese in the crowd… cheering me on, it felt like they were all helping to carry me along. Rather than me fighting on my own. In the remaining 20 seconds, I knew I could not go on the defensive. However, I had a lead of two points, so I was trying not to concede… any points and to make sure I did not step back. When the countdown began and there was only four seconds left… on the clock for my third consecutive Olympic title I felt so great. I was overjoyed. I was happy, but when I looked at my coach he was the one crying for joy. The moment it ended, I did a bit of a performance, but I always put a really nice finish, from vaults to backflips. I never thought I could win three consecutive golds. London was the hardest Olympic Games, and before it I was really just hoping to win a medal, even if it was not the gold medal. I really never thought that I could win three in a row. At the same time, I have my next target, I am not settling for the three golds in a row, I now want to try for a fourth.

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