(John Sachs/USA Wrestling)
Having come up short by one win during the 2008 Beijing Games, Clarissa Chun, 30, of Kapolai, Hawaii, won three of four matches in the freestyle 48-kilogram class to bring home the bronze medal.
"This time I learned from Beijing [and] I didn't get into the emotional roller-coaster ride," Chun -- the 2008 World Championships gold medalist -- told TheMat.com, the official USA Wrestling web site. "I just stayed cool, calm and collected for the opportunity."
Chun opened the meet with a 5-0, 1-0 victory over China's Sasha Zhao, a two-time medalist in the World Championships, but suffered her only loss the next time out in the round-of-eight match -- a 2-0, 3-0 loss to eventual silver medalist Mariya Stadnyk of Azerbaijan, the 2009 World champion.
Stadnyk was beaten for the gold medal, 0-4, 1-0, 3-0, by Japan's Hitomi Obara -- a seven-time world champion who came out of retirement at age 31 to compete in the Games.
Chun didn't lose again. In the second repechage round, she fell behind Poland's Iwona Matkawska, 1-0, but took command in the second frame and won by fall with 36 seconds remaining.
That set up the bronze medal tilt against Irini Merleni of the Ukraine, who won the gold medal at Athens in 2004 -- the first year women's wrestling was included as an Olympic sport -- and has three World championships to her credit.
Chun completed a shot for a double-leg takedown on Merleni during the first period for a 1-0 lead. Late in the second set, Chun scored a three-point arm toss to secure the victory.
"For me, it was about finishing strong," Chun said. "That's the difference I made from Beijing. I was a nervous wreck when I lost in 2008."
"Clarissa's gone through a lot of tough times," remarked Team USA coach Terry Steiner. "To hold things together and believe she could do it here is really impressive.
"She's just an unbelievable athlete and super human being on top of that," he added.
Those who knew her during her career as a Lady Viking would agree. Chun became the first of many Valley stars when it launched the second U.S. college women's program in 1999 -- a year following Minnesota-Morris.
After three seasons at MVC, Chun accepted an invitation to join the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, eventually earning her degree from that city's University of Colorado branch.
Her career appeared stalled shortly thereafter when Chun suffered a knee injury, but she battled back to claim a spot in the 2008 Olympics -- where she went 1-2, the second loss dropping her from medal contention.
Chun has since has won numerous medals at national and international meets.
"It's not the color I imagined, but I'm happy," Chun said about tying for third place with Canada's Carol Huynh. "Gold is what I strive for, but I'm happy with bronze."
Another former Lady Viking, Maria Dunn, 26, of Tamuning, Guam, lost her only bout at 63 kilograms. Dunn, a 10-time Oceania champion who attended Valley from 2004 to '08, was beaten in the qualification round by Russia's Lubov Volosoba, 5-0, and didn't advance.
Dunn wrestled for Guam at the 2008 Olympics, but was also eliminated in her first bout. Another Guam native, Jeffrey Cobb, became Valley's first Olympic wrestler during the Athens Games, while he was still a member of the Vikings.