Friday, August 8, 2008

Wrestler says brother, rival prepared her for gold

Centre County Sports - | Centre Daily

- McClatchy NewspapersMarcie Van Dusen

BEIJING - If not for the love-hate relationship most siblings experience growing up, Marcie Van Dusen might not be in China.

But she is, scheduled to wrestle at 55 kilograms (121 pounds) at the Beijing Olympic Games, which open Friday.

Women's wrestling, which made its Olympic debut four years ago at Athens, will be contested here Aug. 16-17.

Van Dusen, from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., owes her wrestling introduction to her brother T.J.

"I started when I was 8. My brother beat me up a lot," Van Dusen said during a team press conference Thursday. "He would come home from wrestling practice and try out all of his moves on me. So I figured I had to learn how to fight back."

Soon, T.J.'s coach invited Marcie to join the team. Now, she's handing out beatings, although not to her brother.

"He still beats me up and he's 32 now," said Marcie, 26. "I go home and give him a big hug, and it ends up being a head lock."

To strike Olympic gold, she'll likely have to beat Japan's Saori Yoshida, the reigning World and Olympic champion.

Van Dusen did exactly that in January, 3-0 at the World Cup.

Although Van Dusen had beaten Yoshida in a 1998 Cadet-level match, the Japanese star had never been beaten since joining the senior ranks.

"I heard she wanted a rematch, so I thought I'd come back and give her one," Van Dusen said. "(The win) helps my confidence. She had 119 matches without a loss, so I couldn't let her continue with that. I know I can beat the best in the world and now I have (the results) to prove it."

That was front-page news in some Japanese papers, and Yoshida cried over the result.

Van Dusen says she won't take anything for granted here. A 10th place finish at last year's World Championships taught her not to overlook minor errors in practice, but rather to make corrections as soon as possible. And she won't overlook Yoshida.

"She's very quick and she's explosive," Van Dusen said. "And I think she's very aware of where she is when she's wrestling because she makes quick adjustments."

Van Dusen is one-fourth of Team USA's wrestling women.

Her teammates are Clarissa Chun at 48 kilos (105.5 pounds), Randi Miller at 63 (138.75) and Ali Bernard at 72 (158.5).

"It's really cool to come to China. I'm half-Chinese and my family will be coming," said Chun, whose father, Bryan, has never visited his ancestral homeland. "This is their first overseas trip. It means a lot."

To prepare for Beijing, the team took time out for fun and focus at Breckenridge, Colo.

Team leader Stan Zeamer said the squad went out on a pontoon one day, climbed a 14,000-foot mountain the next, and later hopped on mountain bikes. A sports psychologist was on hand to help the wrestlers "prepare mentally and spiritually for this experience."

Coaches Terry Steiner and Tadaaki Hatta say Team USA will do well here. Hatta says Japan is the country to beat, with Team USA, Russia and Ukraine the likely pursuers.

"We have very high expectations with this group," Steiner said. "Our feeling is that when you make a U.S. team, you are ready to medal at a World or Olympic Games. We have the depth in our country and the competition within our country (that) I feel whoever makes our team is prepared and tested and ready to win."

If Van Dusen can pull off an Olympic victory, only her brother will continue to hold reign over her.

"I'm waiting to get him," she said. "He's got to get a little older, a little fatter, first."

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