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Canada’s Tonya Verbeek wins silver in 55-kg event

LONDON—Tonya Verbeek has won a silver medal in the women's 55-kilogram wrestling event at the London Olympics.

The Grimsby, Ont. wrestler competed in the gold medal match today and was defeated by Saori Yoshida of Japan.

Verbeek won a silver at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and then followed that with a bronze at Beijing in 2008.

Verbeek, a smart defensive tactician on the mat, has been wrestling tremendously well today, winning all three of her matches.

Verbeek, who will turn 35 next week, was in tough against Yoshida. The 29-year-old Japanese wrestler is the two-time defending Olympic champion and a nine-time world champion. She has also been Verbeek’s major nemesis at the last two Olympics. Yoshida beat Verbeek in the gold medal match in 2004 by a 6-0 score. She then beat her in the semifinal in 2008 by an 8-0 score. Verbeek, though, almost beat Yoshida in a match at last year’s world championship, pushing the reigning champ to a third period.

After Verbeek’s semifinal victory, she told Sportsnet broadcaster Arash Madani: “The chance to wrestle for gold, and this being the end of my career, it means everything.”

Fellow Canadian wrestler Leah Callahan, who did not advance past the first round today in the 72-kilogram event, said she is “ecstatic” that Verbeek has moved on.

“She’s wrestling really well and just seems really confident,” said Callahan. “It would mean the world (to her). She’s been medalling at the worlds for a decade so to finally get the gold would be huge. She’s in a good place. She’s not putting all the pressure on herself. It would mean a lot.”

The 25-year-old Callahan said Verbeek is someone the young Canadian wrestlers look up to.

“As a young athlete, it’s amazing to be on her team and see her go through this experience,” she said. “Everybody at Canada Wrestling looks up to her.”

With files from The Canadian Press