Before she went to Athens last month, Patricia Miranda LAW ’07 already had a resume impressive enough to get her into Yale Law School. Today, Miranda arrives in New Haven with one more item on that resume — Olympic bronze medal in wrestling.
Miranda, who was considered a contender for the gold medal in the 48-kilogram (105.5 pound) category, said in an interview yesterday that she was initially disappointed by her performance in Athens. But Miranda, the first-ever medalist in the new Olympic sport, said she now feels more satisfied with her third-place finish.
“I was obviously really proud to have the American flag raised during the podium. I think I’m coming around more to viewing that positively,” Miranda said.
Last Monday Miranda soundly defeated Angelique Berthenet of France in the bronze medal match after a semifinal loss to Ukrainian Irina Merleni. Merleni — who also defeated Miranda in the final of the 2003 World Championships — went on to defeat Japanese wrestler Chiharu Icho to win the gold in the lightest weight class for women.
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.
USA Wrestling coach Terry Steiner said despite her loss to Merleni, Miranda — one of two American women to win a wrestling medal — should be proud of her performance in Athens.
“I think in time she’s going to realize what an outstanding accomplishment it is. Even though she didn’t get the gold that she wanted it’s still been a great run for her,” Steiner said. “She’s going to be able to look back on it, and she’s going to be able to hold her head high whether she has the bronze medal or the gold medal.”
Against Merleni, Miranda was unable to earn a single technical point, losing by a final score of 9-0. But against Berthenet, the American overcame an early deficit to resoundingly win, 12-4.
In Olympic wrestling, points are awarded for performing different holds and techniques during a match. If neither wrestler has pinned her opponent after six minutes of a bout, the wrestler with the most points is declared the winner.
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 said she is unsure whether her match against Berthenet marked the end of her wrestling career.
“I thought I would know after the Olympics, but the fact is I really don’t,” Miranda said. “I’m very excited about getting to do something new.”
Miranda said she plans to work with Yale’s club wrestling team, and will also wrestle as a way of staying in shape.
Miranda, who gained permission to defer two years from the law school 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.
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.
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