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A two-time junior world champion, the 21-year-old Kawai scored a shutout victory over European champion Maryia Mamashuk of Belarus to claim her gold. Speaking afterwards the Japanese wrestler said: “I am just happy, and I want to just say thank you to everyone: my opponent, my friends, my family and all the people here that supported me. I want to thank everyone.” After pocketing her country’s first Olympic medal in women’s wrestling, Mamashuk said. “I wanted a gold medal but today I got the silver and that’s OK with me. This is my first Olympic Games and I’m very happy about it and the medal.”
The 53kg event also saw a first, as Maroulis became the USA’s maiden Olympic women’s wrestling champion, the American pulling off a shock win over three-time defending Olympic champion Saori Yoshida in the final. It was only the third defeat of the Japanese legend’s professional career.
“I’ve dreamed of this my whole life. I put it on this pedestal,” said Maroulis, who had nothing but praise for the vanquished Yoshida: “I’ve been dreaming about wrestling Saori for so long. She’s a hero. She’s the most decorated wrestler in the sport. It’s such an honour to wrestle her.” Attempting to explain her defeat, 13-time world champion Yoshida said: “The opponent was stronger than me, that’s all. I should have attacked sooner and faster, but the opponent was stronger than me.”
In the final bout of the night, the 75kg final, world No2 Wiebe powered to victory over Kazakhstan’s Guzel Manyurova to collect the first Olympic medal of her career. In picking up silver, the 38-year-old Kazakh took her medal collection to three, having won silver at Athens 2004 – where she represented Russia – and bronze at London 2012. “I just took it one takedown at a time,” said the Canadian of her performance in the final. “I didn’t think about who I was wrestling. I didn’t think about what they were. I just thought about what I needed to do in that moment, and I still don’t really believe it.”