Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Sports / Olympic Games

Blades sharpens her focus on wrestling gold

Updated: 2024-06-17 10:05
Share - WeChat
Kennedy Blades (left) celebrates her win over Adeline Gray during a 76-kilogram bout at the US Olympic wrestling trials in April. AP

Kennedy Blades initially struggled to fully appreciate her biggest moment on the mat. Her mind was already on Olympic gold.

Blades, just 20 years old, defeated six-time world champion and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Adeline Gray at the US Olympic Wrestling Trials in April to qualify for the Paris Games in the 76-kilogram class.

Blades barely cracked a smile, already thinking ahead to possibly becoming the third American woman to win an Olympic wrestling gold medal.

"I felt there was something more that I wanted," she said. "And I think I've just manipulated my mind to going for gold, bringing home a gold medal from the Olympics. So that (beating Gray) was just the first step."

Women's wrestling made its Olympic debut in 2004, but the US didn't earn its first gold until Helen Maroulis won the 53kg division in 2016. Tamyra Mensah-Stock followed by winning the 68kg event at Tokyo 2020.

Blades, who dominates at nearly 6-feet (1.83-meter) tall in a sport that often favors stockier athletes, could be the next great star for a country where wrestling is the fastest-growing high school sport among girls.

Blades solidified herself as a Paris favorite with the win over Gray, and US women's coach Terry Steiner believes she has the ability and the confidence to win it all.

"We have a generational talent that we just don't see very often," Steiner said. "But, it's one thing having that talent and another thing being ready for the stage that she's on. She's just shown us the past few years that she's ready to be on that stage."

Blades has been a standout for years. In 2016, the Chicago native became the first Illinois girl to win an Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation championship against boys. She lost to Mensah-Stock in the finals of the Tokyo Olympic Trials in 2021 as a 17-year-old, then won a junior world championship later that year.

She said Mensah-Stock overpowered her at the trials, but it was a learning experience that helped set her course for Paris.

"It made me feel really good because I was right there," she said. "I did get some shots on her, so my technique and everything's right there, I think I just needed to mature a little bit. These last three years, I've been focusing on just maturing, wrestling smart, not letting the girls get in my head."

As Blades has matured, she has learned how to use her exceptional quickness and reach. Her size makes her difficult to prepare for. Blades said she can surprise opponents with holds in positions where her opponents normally think they're safe.

Blades, who is Afro-Latina, said she was happy when Mensah-Stock became the first black woman to win a wrestling gold medal. Blades said she is proud to represent several groups, including women and young people — but she wants to inspire all. She noted the importance of representation, while telling the story of a young girl who noticed they looked alike and had the same kind of hair. The girl said she wants to be just like Blades and looks forward to watching her in Paris.

"It gave me butterflies," Blades said.

Steiner said another young person, Amit Elor, has helped Blades reach this point. Elor, the US Olympic qualifier for 68kg, won world titles in 2022 and 2023. Like Blades, Elor is just 20 years old.

Blades said her younger sister, Korina, has also helped her prepare. Korina is 10 months younger and was an under-15 world champion in 2019 and a junior world bronze medalist in 2021. Injuries kept her out of the Olympic trials.


Most Popular


What's Hot
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349