Patricia Miranda LAW ’07 won a bronze medal in women’s wrestling Monday, becoming the first-ever Olympic medalist in the new event.

Miranda, who was considered a contender for the gold medal in the 48-kilogram (105.5 pound) category, soundly defeated Angelique Berthenet of France in the bronze medal match after a semifinal loss to Ukrainian Irina Merleni.

Despite making it to the medal stand, Miranda, 25, expressed disappointment about her performance in Athens, where she fell to the same opponent she lost to in the 2003 World Championships finals.

“You visualize it so many times, getting the gold, that it stings a little bit,” Miranda said. “But I’m pretty excited.”

Against Merleni, the American was unable to earn a single technical point, losing by a final score of 9-0. But against Berthenet, Miranda overcame an early deficit to resoundingly win, 12-4.

In Olympic wrestling, points are awarded for accomplishing different holds and techniques during a match. If neither wrestler has pinned their opponent after six minutes of a bout, the wrestler with the most points is declared the winner.

Because the 48-kilogram bronze medal match was held before the gold medal bout or the finals in any of the other three weight classes, Miranda was the first female wrestler to earn a medal. Merleni went on to defeat Japanese wrestler Chiharu Icho to win the gold in the lightest weight class for women.

Miranda, who had about five hours of lag time between her semifinal loss and her win in the third-place match, said she struggled to rebuild her confidence after the morning loss.

“It just took some time to realize there’s some pride in showing that Americans bounce back,” Miranda said.

Miranda is no stranger to coming back from defeat – at Stanford, where she competed on the men’s varsity team, she went four years without winning a single match before finally earning a victory as a fifth-year senior.

But even as she struggled to hold her own against male competitors as a Cardinal, she established herself as one of the world’s best female wrestlers by winning a gold medal in the Pan-American Games and placing in several other international competitions.

Miranda, who gained permission to defer a year from Yale Law to train for the Olympics in Colorado Springs, also became one of the sport’s foremost spokeswomen – appearing on NBC’s “Today” show and earning spreads in Newsweek and Time.

Miranda, a California native, said that after the closing ceremonies Aug. 29, she plans to travel directly to New Haven, where she will register as a first-year law student next week.

Steve Buddie, who coached Miranda at Stanford, said her victory could increase interest among women in the sport, even if it is unlikely to enter into the mainstream.

“I have to believe that it will do nothing but good things for women’s wrestling,” Buddie said.

In comments posted on the USA Wrestling Web site, national team coach Terry Steiner said Miranda will likely look back with pride on her bronze medal.

“She may not like it right now, but I guarantee 10 years from now she’ll cherish it,” Steiner said. “She’ll hurt, she wanted the gold, but she’ll bounce back. Bronze is still a medal.”

Miranda was the second Yale University student to medal in Athens, bringing Yale’s all-time medal tally to 104. Last week, fencer Sada Jacobson ’06 became the first woman ever to medal in women’s sabre, winning bronze in another event that was introduced to the Olympics in 2004.

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