August 22, 2004 2:10 pm
U.S. women wrestlers advance
ATHENS, Greece - Every time a member of the U.S. women's freestyle wrestling Olympic team stepped on a mat Sunday at Ano Liossia Olympic Hall, history was being written faster than the ink and sweat could dry.
When Sara McMann beat 2001 world champion Lili Meng of China, America had its first victory.
The win, by fall, was the first pin in U.S. women's Olympic wrestling history.
Tela O'Donnell, down 5-0 to Russia's Olga Smirnova, had America's first Olympic comeback with a dramatic pin.
Win or lose, each moment mattered - because it was the Olympics.
``We get to show what we do to the world,'' said O'Donnell, of Homer, Ala. ``It's so much bigger than me - it's huge.''
The United States pushed two of its four competitors to Monday's semifinals.
Only Patricia Miranda, at 105.5 pounds, made it through the day without a loss. Miranda beat China's Hui Li (8-5), Russia's Lorisa Oorzhak (7-3) and Venezuela's Mayelis Caripa (11-1).
McMann also advanced, splitting her two matches but advancing on classification points, 5-4, over Canada's Viola Yankik - who beat McMann, 5-2.
McMann's pin against Meng - in 4 minutes, 26 seconds at 138.75 pounds - was the difference. Pins are worth four classification points, the tools used to determine pool winners.
``We'd like to have gotten three or even four in there,'' said coach Terry Steiner. ``Now the thing is, we need to get two golds. And we're capable of that in both weight classes.''
The Americans lost O'Donnell at 121 pounds and two-time world silver medalist Toccara Montgomery at 158.5.
Montgomery was paired with five-time world champion Kyoko Hamaguchi of Japan in the blind-draw system and fell, 8-4.
``It is painful (to lose two),'' Miranda said. ``We're very close-knit.''
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COMMENTARY AND PERSPECTIVE
MIKE LOPRESTI | Gannett News Service
IAN O'CONNOR | The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
CHRISTINE BRENNAN | USA TODAY
DAN BICKLEY | The Arizona Republic
LYNN HENNING | The Detroit News
BOB KRAVITZ | The Indianapolis Star
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