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WORLD CHAMPION!!!! American Clarissa Chun wins gold at World Championships

Clarissa Chun poses with her coach, Keith Wilson, after Chun won a World title on Sunday night in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Craig Sesker, USA Wrestling

TOKYO, Japan - Clarissa Chun knew she needed to make some changes.

Fourth in the 2007 U.S. World Team Trials, Chun knew she needed to become stronger and improve her conditioning if she was going to make a serious run at landing a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

Chun's commitment and focus paid off in ways she likely couldn't have even imagined a year ago. Two months after placing fifth at the 2008 Olympic Games, Chun turned in a superb effort to capture a gold medal at the World Championships on Sunday night.

Chun relied on her defense in pulling out a gritty 1-0, 1-0 finals win over Kazakhstan's Jyldyz Eshimova-Turtbayeva at the Women's World Championships on Sunday night at Yoyogi National Stadium.

The 27-year-old Chun becomes just the fifth American to win a World title in women's freestyle wrestling. Chun, from Honolulu, Hawaii, won the first period from the defensive position in the clinch before countering and going behind the Kazakhstan wrestler for the only takedown of the second period.

"It's definitely exciting to win a World title," Chun said. "It's great to come back and win this after what happened at the Olympics. It feels great to be called a World champ, and I want more."

The powerful, 20-year-old Eshimova-Turtbayeva placed second in the 2008 Junior World Championships. Chun had reached the finals by downing past World bronze medalist Makiko Sakamoto of Japan in the semifinals at 48 kg/105.5 lbs.

Chun's transformation in 2008 came under the direction of her coach, Keith Wilson, who was in Chun's corner during this tournament. Chun jumped into Wilson's arms just moments after winning her World title.

"We changed her training a little bit," Wilson said. "We thought she could win if she did a few things differently. We dedicated ourselves to each other, and she listened to me and trained and she did what I asked her to do. She put the time in and everything clicked. She changed her weight program and her diet. She did a lot of work to become more explosive. She built up her cardio. That made a big difference for her. Instead of losing matches because she's tired, she's scoring points at the end of matches and winning those scrambles."

Chun was the only U.S. Olympian among the four women that competed in Beijing who wrestled in the Worlds.

"She lost a heartbreaker at the Olympics - it was rough," Wilson said. "She had the bracket from hell and wrestled toe-to-toe with everybody. That tournament gave her confidence and let her know she was right there with the best wrestlers in the World. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. She's got a lot of great wrestling left in her if she decides to commit to this for another four years."

Chun became the first American since Iris Smith in 2005 to win a World title. In addition to Chun and Smith, Tricia Saunders won four World titles for the U.S., Kristie Marano won two and Sandra Bacher one.

Chun, who trains in Colorado Springs and wrestles for the Sunkist Kids, grew up in Hawaii. She is part Japanese and part Chinese. She plans to stay in Japan after the Worlds and teach English to elementary school students in Japan.

American Alaina Berube lost in the first round of the Repechage on Sunday afternoon and fell short of placing at 63 kg/138.75. Berube rolled to a 7-1 first-period win over Hanna Beliayeva of Belarus and had taken a 1-0 lead in the second period. But Beliayeva hit a headlock midway through the second period and recorded a fall to advance to the bronze-medal match.

Day 3 of the three-day tournament is set for Monday with competition at 55 kg/121 lbs. and 72 kg/158.5 lbs. The U.S. will send Tatiana Padilla (Azusa, Calif./Sunkist Kids) to the mat at 55 kilos with Stephany Lee (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) set to compete at 72 kilos.

Padilla will face Sofia Pompouridou of Greece in her first bout and Lee will take on five-time World champion Kyoko Hamaguchi of Japan. Hamaguchi won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics.


Sunday's medalists

48 kg/105.5 lbs.
Gold - Clarissa Chun (USA)
Silver - Jyldyz Eshimova-Turtbayeva (Kazakhstan)
Bronze - Makiko Sakamoto (Japan)
Bronze - Guibei Su (China)

63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Gold - Mio Nishimaki (Japan)
Silver - Lubov Volosova (Russia)
Bronze - Audrey Prieto Bokhashvilla (France)
Bronze - Lili Meng (China)

U.S. results - Sunday, Oct. 12, Tokyo, Japan

48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Clarissa Chun, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 1st
WIN Kaya Demet (Turkey), by fall
WIN Pei-Ching Tsai (Taipei), by fall
WIN Makiko Sakamoto (Japan), 0-1, 3-0, 1-1
WIN Jyldyz Eshimova-Turtbayeva (Kazakhstan), 1-0, 1-0

63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Alaina Berube, River Falls, Wis. (New York AC)
WIN Simona Corbani (Italy), 1-0, 7-0
LOSS Lubov Volosova (Russia), 3-0, 2-0
LOSS Hanna Beliayeva (Belarus), 7-1, by fall
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