USA’s Gray reaches 76 kg final after disappointment in Rio
CHIBA, Japan (AP) — Adeline Gray knows she at least will claim that elusive Olympic medal.
Now, she can focus squarely on the gold.
Gray, a five-time world champion, had never won an Olympic medal during her career. She finished a disappointing seventh at the Rio Olympics in 2016 after losing in the quarterfinals.
She broke through on Sunday with a 3-2 win over Kyrgyzstan’s Aiperi Medet Kyzy in a 76 kilogram semifinal on Sunday.
With the victory, she clinched the sixth Olympic medal for a U.S. woman and is positioned to become America’s second woman to win gold.
“We’re in the finals,” Gray said. “I mean, that’s the goal, right? And I felt like I had my team waiting for me to kind of get this ball rolling on the right foot. And I felt like I’ve lived up to that.”
Gray went into the 2016 Olympics with injuries that eventually took her out of action for a year. As she thought back to Rio, she realized how bad her situation was going into that Olympics.
“I had expectations for myself and I think everyone else did last quad, for me to do very well,” she said. “I had gone undefeated for 2 1/2 years. I didn’t see anybody that really was going to be able to go toe-to-toe with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how injured I was.”
Now, she’s got her health and her shot at the gold. She will face Germany’s Aline Rotter-Focken in the final on Monday. The two are friends — Gray even invited Rotter-Focken to her wedding.
“We’ve been talking about this for years,” Gray said. “We’ve been competing against each other since we were like 17, 16 something like that. So this is just like, so many years of hard work and effort coming into fruition.”
In the semifinal, the 30-year-old Gray faced an unfamiliar opponent in the 22-year-old Medet Kyzy.
“She has been cleaning house with a lot of people who I have great matches with, so I went in ready to battle,” Gray said. “It was a little bit closer than I expected it to be. She’s pretty slippery in a few positions, but I really felt like my positioning got the better of her.”
Gray scored a point for Medet Kyzy’s inactivity and another when she forced Medet Kyzy to step out. With about a minute remaining, there was a scramble on the edge that netted no points for Medet Kyzy. Kyrgyzstan challenged and failed, awarding Gray a point and a 3-0 lead. Medet Kyzy scored on a single-leg takedown in the final minute, but Gray held on.
Gray dominated her opening match, pinning Tunisia’s Zaineb Sghaier at the 2:11 mark. She had an 8-0 lead before she scored the pin.
Gray faced Turkey’s Yasemin Adar in the quarterfinals. Adar won the world title in 2017 while Gray was out recovering from injuries.
With Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background, Gray dominated most of the match and took a 6-0 lead. Adar got a takedown and an ankle lace in the final 25 seconds and forced Gray to be defensive in the closing seconds before hanging on for a 6-4 win.
Cuba’s Mijain Lopez earned a shot at a fourth Olympic gold medal by defeating Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp 2-0 in a Greco-Roman 130 kg semifinal. It was a rematch of the 2016 gold medal match, which Lopez also won. Lopez will face Georgia’s Iakobi Kajaia in the final.
In the other final on Monday, Japan’s Kenichiro Fumita will face Cuba’s Luis Orta in the 60 kg Greco-Roman category.
American Ildar Hafizov lost his opening match 5-0 to Orta at 60 kg. Because his opponent reached the final, he is alive in repechage and can battle back for bronze. He will face the Russian Olympic Committee’s Sergey Emelin on Monday for the chance to advance to a bronze medal match. Emelin, the No. 2 seed, lost to Orta 4-3 in the quarterfinals.
Two former women’s gold medalists were eliminated from medal contention.
Canada’s Erica Wiebe, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist at 75 kg, lost her opening match at 76 on Sunday against Estonia’s Epp Maee. Wiebe trailed 5-0, but got to within 5-4 in the final minute before Maee held off Wiebe’s aggressive charge at the end.
The Russian Olympic Committee’s Natalia Vorobieva, a gold medalist in 2012 at 72 kg and a silver medalist at 69kg in 2016, lost to Medet Kyzy 12-0 in the 76 kg quarterfinals.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.