Canada’s women wrestlers predict podium performances at London Olympics

The Eh Game

An Olympic loss may be what Martine Dugrenier needed to get her on the podium at the London Games.

Dugrenier is a member of the Canadian women's wrestling team at London, a group that doesn't always see its name in headlines but has the potential to boost the country's Olympic medal haul.

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The women's team boasts defending gold medallist Carol Huynh in the 48-kilogram class and two-time Olympic medallist Tonya Verbeek in the 55-kilogram group. Rookie Leah Callahan earned her trip to the Games by upsetting reigning world silver medallist Ohenewa Akuffo in the 72-kilogram class at the Olympic trials.

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Dugrenier lost a bronze medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing in a match she believes she let slip out of her hands. Dugrenier allowed her opponent to score the tying point with 34 seconds left in the match. In wrestling, the last point scored is used to break a tie.

Earlier Dugrenier had lost to the eventual gold medallist after leading in the final round.

The losses made Dugrenier a better competitor.

"I think it's in your mind, but not in a negative aspect," Dugrenier, who will compete in the 63-kilogram class, told Bev Wake of Postmedia. "I saw in my mind I was able to compete and beat those athletes."

Six weeks after her Olympic disappointment Dugrenier won her first world title. She would repeat as champion in 2009 and 2010.

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"It was because of my experience that I was able to get that medal," said Dugrenier, 33, who was a competitive artistic gymnast until the age of 19 before picking up wrestling.

Coach Leigh Vierling is predicting podium performances from the women's team.

"We are a team that's not going to come in under the radar," said Vierling. "I'm quite confident we're going to have some people on the podium at these Olympic Games."

Verbeek said some of the women's team success can be attributed to their training.

"We in Canada are very fortunate with our coaching and support because we are mixed in with the men and it helps us get better and stronger all the time," said Verbeek, who won a silver in 2004 in Athens and a bronze in Beijing. "We haven't been segregated and I think that's been a real advantage to us."

Huynh finished fifth at the 2011 world championships but feels confident about her Olympic chances.

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"I feel like I've dealt with the pressure really well and I'm going into the Games with a similar mindset to last time," she said. "I want to wrestle to the best of my ability. I feel  if I do that I can be top of the world again."

The men's team comes into the Games with medal aspirations of their own.

Matt Gentry is a former NCAA champion who lost in the quarter-finals in Beijing.

"I personally want to do my best and I think my best is good enough to medal," said Gentry, who'll compete in the 74-kilogram class.  "I've beaten a lot of the top guys."

The wrestling competition begins Sunday.

More London Olympics coverage at Yahoo! Canada Sports:
Pics: New faces on Canadian Olympic team
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