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Leigh Jaynes set to make big impact at Women's World Championships

Nobody on the U.S. team appreciates being back in the World Championships more than Leigh Jaynes.

And she plans to make the most of her opportunity.

A first-time World Team member in 2007, Jaynes has had a string of near-misses since then in women’s freestyle wrestling.

She finished second in the U.S. World Team Trials in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and third in 2010. She placed second in the U.S. Open this past December.

Jaynes finally broke through this year to make the U.S. squad at 59 kg/130 lbs. She is one of seven Americans set to compete at the FILA Women’s World Championships, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday in Strathcona County, Canada.

Jaynes (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) will compete on Day 1 of the event.

“I just need to trust my training, my ability and my coaches, and know that I can win every match,” Jaynes said. “I know what I am capable of. What it comes down to is wrapping my brain around the idea that I am worthy of winning. I feel like I just need to have faith in my ability and I will be successful.”

FILA will host a separate Women’s Worlds for the second time during an Olympic year with competition in all seven weight classes. The women competed in just four weight classes at last month's Olympics in London.

Jaynes’ weight class of 59 kilos is a non-Olympic division.

“I think this is huge to have this opportunity,” Jaynes said. “We have a lot of girls who moved to Olympic weight classes where they don’t perform their best because there are only four Olympic weights. This is a great chance for me to perform in a weight class where I am best suited. It’s a great opportunity to win a World medal and represent my country again at the World Championships.”

Jaynes continued to train after coming up short of her goal of making the 2012 Olympic Team.

“It was hard to deal with the disappointment and with everything that happened at the Olympic Trials,” she said. “What kept me going was the opportunity to compete at the Worlds. I continued to work hard this summer. I knew I could totally redeem myself and have an opportunity to win a gold medal.”

Jaynes said 59 kilos is the ideal weight class for her. She also has competed in the Olympic class of 55 kg/121 lbs.

“It makes all the difference in the world for me,” she said. “It has been tough moving back and forth between 55 and 59. I feel so much better at 59. I’m a lot stronger and I have a lot more energy. I feel real comfortable at this weight class.”

Jaynes hopes to gain from her experience at the 2007 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. She drew World champion Ayako Shoda of Japan in the first round. Jaynes scored the first takedown before dropping a 1-1, 1-0 decision. She was eliminated when Shoda fell short of the finals.

“I think I may have given Shoda too much respect,” Jaynes said. “She was a World champion from Japan, and I had all these doubts. I was really close to beating her, but I didn’t wrestle the way I am capable of wrestling. It was a huge disappointment, to not have wrestled to my potential.

“I thought Shoda would pull me back into the tournament by making it to the finals, but it didn’t happen. It just showed me that anything can happen.”

Jaynes has been wrestling well. She won the U.S. World Team Wrestle-Off earlier this month. She owns wins over 2011 World champion Ganna Vasylenko of Ukraine and 2011 World bronze medalist Takako Saito of Japan.

“This is a great opportunity for Leigh,” U.S. National Coach Terry Steiner said. “She’s been to the Worlds before and she knows what to expect. Leigh’s definitely capable of winning a medal, and I know she’s looking to win a World title.”

Jaynes, 31, a New Jersey native, was asked if this would be her last event. She has been on the U.S. National Team every year since 2007.

“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do at this point,” she said. “If I still have the passion to win and still have the drive to train, I am still going to wrestle.”

Wrestling fairly close to home in Canada is something Jaynes thinks can be an advantage as well. She traveled to Canada on Monday.

“We didn’t have to travel very far, and the time zone is exactly the same as it is in Colorado,” she said. “I feel really comfortable here. It feels like home.”

Jaynes is scheduled to weigh in on Wednesday before competing on Thursday.

“My weight is really good, and I feel great,” she said. “I can just focus on feeling relaxed and getting ready to compete. I’m excited to see what I can do.”
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