Clarissa Chun Takes Bronze At Olympics

U.S. wrestler Clarissa Chun lived her Olympic dream long before she actually experienced it. Even so, emotion still overwhelms her now that she has returned to Kapolei and is frequently asked to show friends her bronze medal.

Kapolei's wrestling winner Clarissa Chun

“Still today, when people ask me to see my medal, it’s crazy and I still can’t believe I achieved that,” said Chun, who celebrated her 31st birthday last week- end. “I didn’t want to come home without a medal. Being able to compete in the Olympics was a dream from an early age — especially since 2002 when they announced it (that wrestling would be an Olympic sport). I’d always grown up watching the gymnastics and swimming and judo.”

When not in Kapolei, Chun has spent much of the last 10 years in Colorado Springs training for the Olympic Games.

Throughout her journey, her family always was a huge presence. A throng of 32 followers — including family and friends — were on hand in London to see her win. Among relatives who made the trip were her parents, Bryan and Gail, as well as her brother Shaun, three years her elder.

It was Shaun who lit a fire under her when she was a kid to compete in athletics. “We’d grown up swimming, and I’d done gymnastics and judo,” said Chun, who competes in the 105-pound Freestyle Division. “My brother always was coming home with these trophies, and I wanted one, too. He told me to go out for wrestling, and it was he who got me into judo. My mom didn’t want me to, but I snuck out one day to practice and tried it.

“My family has always been there to support me,” she added. “Growing up, they were at every judo practice, and they used to go to all the nationals I competed in.”

Chun took fifth in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and quickly set her sights on 2012. In the days leading up to the recent games, her will to prepare was as great as her will to win. “The biggest challenge was trusting and believing every day I went to practice that I was getting better,” she said. “I didn’t want to feel like I’d had a bad practice or hadn’t gotten anything accomplished. You have to trust in all the work you put in.”

Chun’s Olympic round was packed into one day. She had two matches in the early afternoon and two more in the evening. In between sessions, she had four hours to spend.

“I tried to relax, and when I wanted to be alone, I was alone, and when I wanted to be around people, I went to see my family,” she said of the interval.

With the pressure off, and a medal in her possession, Chun was able to watch live the spectacular closing ceremony, which also showcased famous British musical artists.

“It was like one big concert, and it was neat to see George Michael and the others,” she said. “I’m 4- 11,” so it wasn’t easy to see because everyone was standing,” she added with a laugh, “but the parts I did see were amazing.”

Four-feet-11 or not, Chun is standing tall today.