But for four seconds, Martine Dugrenier would be coming into the London Olympics as a defending Olympic medalist in women’s wrestling.
Four years ago in Beijing, Dugrenier had a one point lead on American Randi Miller late in the third and final round. With just four seconds left, Miller scored one point to tie it. The match ended 1-1, but under wrestling rules the victory goes to the wrestler who scored the last point. So instead of bronze, Dugrenier finished fifth.
“You think about it,” Dugrenier said Saturday as the Canadian wrestling team prepared for the Olympic tournament which starts on Aug. 5. “It’s in your mind but not in a negative aspect. You go back and I think it’s really there that I saw that I was able to compete and beat those people that were the best in the world.”
Dugrenier, 33, put the experience from Beijing to work right away and won gold at the world championships just six weeks after the Olympics. She won again the following year as well.
Dugrenier is part of a Canadian team that could win as many as three medals in London. Others on the team include Carol Huynh, who won gold in 2008, and Tonya Verbeek, who won silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008.
“We are a team that’s not going to come in under the radar,” said team coach Leigh Vierling. “We’ve had a good preparation coming in here and I’m quite confident that we are going to have some people on the podium at this Olympic Games.”
Unlike sports such as tennis, wrestling matches are not seeded with top wrestlers going up against lower ranked athletes in early rounds. Instead matches are assigned based on a draw that takes place on the same day as the weigh in. That introduces an element of luck. As a result, Vierling said the coaching staff has analyzed every competitor in the tournament (there are 18 in each weight class).
Huynh, 31, said she know she will be under more pressure this time now that she is a defending gold medalist. “There’s always that question of whether or not I’m going to be able to handle the pressure of being the defending Olympic champion. I feel like I’ve dealt with that pressure really well and I’m going into these Games with a similar mind set that I had last time and I just want to be able to wrestle to best of my ability.”
For Verbeek, who also coaches at Brock University, this will be her third and likely last Olympics. “There’s lots of young eager ones. It just keeps me on my toes, makes me know that I have to be ready for every match.”
Dugrenier has one more challenge that her teammates don’t face. She normally wrestles in the 67 kg weight class, but that class doesn’t exist at the Olympics. Instead she will be competing in the 63 kg class.
“It’s an adjustment for sure, It’s a 10 pound difference in the weight,” she said. “When your here at the Olympics you make all the sacrifices that need to be done.”
And coming on top of losing a medal by such a small margin, it’s all just more motivation for her. “For me this year I can return four years later and get the medal that I lost in the last seconds at the end,” she said.