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Japan legend Saori Yoshida captures third Olympic gold medal

Craig Sesker USA Wrestling

Japan’s Saori Yoshida celebrates after winning her third Olympic gold medal. Larry Slater photo.

LONDON – It was the longest gold-medal celebration on the mat in the five days of wrestling at the 2012 Olympic Games.

And the most well-deserved.

Japan’s Saori Yoshida headlocked her coach to the mat before doing a cartwheel into a flip after making history by winning her historic third Olympic gold medal on Thursday night.

Yoshida swept Canada’s Tonya Verbeek 3-0, 2-0 to win the Olympic title in women’s freestyle wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs. before a sellout crowd of 6,500 fans at ExCel North Arena 2.

Yoshida ran around the mat with her coaches, as they took turns carrying each other on their shoulders while raising the Japanese flag after her finals win.

Yoshida joined Japanese teammate Kaori Icho as a three-time Olympic champion. Icho won her third title on Wednesday.

Yoshida beat Verbeek for the second time in an Olympic final. She beat Verbeek in the first Olympics for women’s freestyle in 2004 in Athens and followed by winning gold again in 2008 in Beijing.

Yoshida also beat Verbeek in the 2011 World finals.

Yoshida has won nine World titles. She has lost just twice in her amazing international career on the Senior level.

Russia’s Natalia Vorobieva dropped the first period before pinning Bulgaria’s Stanka Zlateva just 46 seconds into the second period in the Olympic finals at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. Vorobieva won three Junior World titles.

Zlateva, a five-time World champion, finished with an Olympic silver medal for the second straight time after also placing second in 2008.

London, England, August 9

Women’s freestyle

55 kg/121 lbs.
Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan)
Silver – Tonya Verbeek (Canada)
Bronze – Jackeline Renteria (Colombia)
Bronze – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan)
5th – Tetyana Lazareva (Ukraine)
5th – Valeria Zholobova (Russia)
7th – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden)
8th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia)
9th – Lissette Antes Castillo (Ecuador)
10th – Kum Ok Han (North Korea)

Medal Matches
Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan) dec. Tonya Verbeek (Canada), 3-0, 2-0
Bronze – Jackeline Renteria (Colombia) dec. Tetyana Lazareva (Ukraine), 0-1, 4-0, 2-0
Bronze – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan) dec. Valeria Zholobova (Russia), 6-0, 2-1

72 kg/158.5 lbs.
Gold – Natalia Vorobieva (Russia)
Silver – Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria)
Bronze – Gouzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan)
Bronze – Madier Unda Gonzales (Spain)
5th – Jiao Wang (China)
5th – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus)
7th – Laure Ali Annabel (Cameroon)
8th – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia)
9th – Jenny Fransson (Sweden)
10th – Svetlana Saenco (Moldova)

Medal matches
Gold – Natalia Vorobieva (Russia) pinned Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria), 0-1, 0:46
Bronze – Madier Unda Gonzales (Spain) dec. Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus), 1-0, 1-0
Bronze – Gouzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan) dec. Jiao Wang (China), 1-1, 4-1, 1-0
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