Olympics Summer

Canada's Huynh grapples to gold

Wrestler Carol Huynh of Hazelton, B.C., has won Canada's first gold of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Wrestler Carol Huynh of Hazelton, B.C., has won Canada's first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics.

The 27-year-old captured gold on Day 8 of the Games in the 48-kilogram freestyle weight class over Japan's Chiharu Icho by a score of 4-0 and 2-1. 

Huynh threw her hands in the air and covered her mouth in awe after winning Canada's first gold medal. The Canadian's coaches then hoisted her on their shoulders and paraded her around the stadium with the Canadian flag.

Huynh's victory came less than 20 minutes before Tonya Verbeek of Beamsville, Ont., won the bronze medal in the 55-kg weight class.

She began crying on the podium, wiping away tears and singing as the Canadian anthem was played for the first time at the Beijing Games.

"I was just thinking how proud I am to be Canadian," Huynh said of her reaction. "And I was just thinking about the road to how I got here. It's been a long one but a good one."

Canada's first medal of the 2008 Summer Games was a silver won by rowers David Calder and Scott Frandsen, but it was Huynh who guaranteed the country's first, fighting her way to the gold medal final earlier in the day Saturday.

"This is unbelievable," she told CBC Sports following the medal ceremony. "I knew I wanted to go in with supreme confidence in my abilities, and not doubting myself one second. That's what I did, and I wrestled the match of my life, and it was awesome."

She is the second Canadian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal, the first being Verbeek, who won silver in Athens.

Beijing marked the first Olympic Games for Huynh, whose parents, husband and siblings were in the stands watching.

"I knew they were basically right in the front row there, and knowing that in the back of my mind was such a good feeling," she said, smiling.

Her parents were born in Vietnam, though Huynh was born in Hazelton, B.C. After her bout she thanked the people of Hazelton for their support and help in "raising an Olympian."

Huynh's win is considered an upset. Icho is the defending and three-time world champion, and won silver at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The five-foot-one Huynh is a three-time world championship medallist (silver in 2001, bronze in 2000 and 2005) and placed 5th at the 2007 world championships.

The Canadian attacked right away in the gold medal match, scoring a quick point in the first period. She maintained that aggressive style, scoring an additional three in the first period and adding two in the second, moving quickly and allowing her opponent to net only a single point. 

Huynh earned her way to the gold medal bout after defeating Kazakhstan's Tatyana Bakatyuk in the semifinal match by a score of 1-0, 4-0.

She advanced to the semis after beating the 2008 European world champion, Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan, in the round of 8. The Canadian won the match 4-3, 2-0. In the quarter-final Huynh beat Korea's Hyung-Joo, 1-0, 1-0.

With files from the Canadian Press