By Craig Sesker USA
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Five Americans have earned gold medals at the World Championships in women's freestyle wrestling.
Two of them will be on the mat at the 2012 FILA Women's World Championships, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday in Strathcona County, Canada.
2008 World champion Clarissa Chun and 2005 World champion Iris Smith lead a strong and experienced U.S. team into Canada for this event.
Chun is coming off a bronze-medal performance at last month's Olympic Games in London. She competes at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. Chun won her World title in 2008 shortly after placing fifth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Smith is back competing at the Worlds for the first time since she captured a gold medal at the 2005 Worlds in Budapest, Hungary. Smith competes at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. She finished second at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials.
The U.S. team also features 2010 World silver medalist Elena Pirozhkova (63 kg/138.75 lbs.) and 2011 World bronze medalist Adeline Gray (67 kg/147.5 lbs.). Pirozhkova was a 2012 Olympian.
The American squad also includes Helen Maroulis, who placed fifth in the 2011 World Championships at 55 kg/121 lbs. Veterans Alyssa Lampe (51 kg/112.25 lbs.) and Leigh Jaynes (59 kg/130 lbs.) will each compete in the Worlds for the second time.
Lampe bumped up a weight class since Chun had already clinched a spot on the World Team at 48 kilos by virtue of winning an Olympic medal this year. Lampe placed second to Chun at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials.
"We have a pretty veteran team – they have all been on World Teams before and they all know what to expect," U.S. National Coach Terry Steiner said. "A lot of these girls have something to prove. We have some girls that want to finish their career on a high note, and we also have some girls that want to start getting ready for the next Olympics in Rio."
Among the top international athletes expected to compete in Canada is Japan's Saori Yoshida, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time World champion. She wrestles at 55 kilos.
Among the other top wrestlers expected to enter are World champions Zamira Rakhmanov of Russia and Oleksandr Kohut of Ukraine. Rakhmanov won a World title at 51 kilos in 2011 after Kohut won Worlds in the same weight class in 2010.
Rakhmanov is expected to wrestle at 51 kilos in Canada with Kohut taking the mat at 48. Chun beat Kohut in the 2011 Worlds at 48 kilos.
2011 World silver medalist Ekaterina Bukina of Russia also is expected to compete at 72 kilos.
Canada will put a strong team on the mat as well. Veteran Tonya Verbeek won a silver medal for Canada at the London Olympics at 55 kilos with teammate Carol Huynh capturing a bronze medal at 48. Huynh won the Olympics in 2008.
Japan rolled to the team title at the 2011 Worlds. Canada finished second after edging the United States and Mongolia by one point in the standings.
This is the second time a World Championships for women has been held following the Olympics. FILA hosted a Women's Worlds in 2008 in Tokyo, Japan, following the 2008 Olympics.
At the Olympic Games, women's wrestling has just four weight divisions. During the Olympic year, FILA also hosts a separate Women's World Championships in the seven women's international weight classes.
"This is a great opportunity for a lot of these girls," Steiner said. "A lot of them were disappointed about not making the Olympic Team this year, but now they have a chance to bounce back at the Worlds."