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The meaning of Saori Yoshida and the victory by Helen Maroulis


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#1 tekto

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 09:39 AM

Hello, this is my first post on this forum, and would like to apologise in advance for its length. However, upon seeing history being made Thursday night and reading all the articles and interviews of Helen, I got the urge to want to share what I felt, and another way to view and appreciate what had happened that memorable night.

First of all, I would like to congratulate Helen Maroulis on becoming the first U.S. female wrestling gold medalist. However, I get a nagging feeling that she is not getting the true recognition that she deserves in her own country, or perhaps even among the wrestling fans in general. By no means am I trying to say negatively about her or U.S. wrestling or media, but I believe it will add further depth and understanding, by knowing who her opponent meant. Now, anyone on this forum would say that they already know what made Yoshida a legend, with her most likely unbreakable record of 16 straight world and Olympics gold metal, her incredible record of 206-3 in international matches, and so on. Those are definitely part of what made Yoshida a wrestling legend, but how many people outside Japan knows of Yoshida's legacy beyond her eye popping videogame like numbers? I believe knowing Saori Yoshida beyond her medals and win streak will further let people appreciate Helen Maroulis for what she did, and how she did it.

I currently reside in America and watched the Olympics using the NBC feed, but used to live in Japan. For years, I watched Saori Yoshida wrestle to legendary status in her home country. She started as a junior star teen wrestler with pedigree, her father and coach, the late Eikatsu Yoshida, former Japanese wrestling champion and women's wrestling team coach during the London Games in the wrestling community. She started to become known in public after Athens gold and the media started to give more spotlight, with her win streak starting to get known to the general public. With her growing consecutive win streak, she shot up to stardom after every win. The media started to follow her to her training at Shigakukan University where she was a student of during Athens, and the wrestling club captain. One grade junior to her in the same club was a wrestler named Kaori Icho. Even after graduating, Yoshida often returned to the club to train with her juniors and give advices. Aspiring wrestlers around the country came to Shigakukan University to meet and train with Yoshida. Until last year, Eri Tosaka was the wrestling club captain. She had first met with Yoshida when she was in elementary school. Tosaka begged to her parents to take her to the University so she could meet her idol, and got to take a photo with Yoshida, a picture she still treasures more than ten years later. When Tosaka was captain, the vice captain was named Risako Kawai. Upon their graduation, the wrestler who took over and is the current captain of the club is named Sara Dosho. She grew up attending the wrestling school taught by Eikatsu Yoshida.

The American feed understandingly focused on Helen after the game, and only some clips of Yoshida crying. What was not seen outside Japan was that during the same time, her teammates were in the spectator stands as well. The three time World champion and Olympic gold medalist was wailing like a child, tears streaming down her face. The four time Olympic gold medalist covered her eyes and hurridly left the Arena, without commenting anything to the media surrounding them. The current Shigakukan University wrestling club captain and gold medalist kept her face smothered in her towel, and couldn't crack a smile even when her upper-classman got her first gold. Their emotions weren't simply that of teammates saddened that one of their members lost a gold medal. Japan has had others who were expected to medal and faltered, and it didn't have the same reaction. They were emotions felt toward the one who was their captain, friend, rival, mentor, idol, teacher, sisterly figure, and much more. Saori Yoshida wasn't respected simply because she was a Guinesse record holder in most consecutive world gold medals won, or her individual match win streak of 206 matches. She was what women's wrestling meant for them, and this generation of wrestlers, athletes, and the country.

As a country, when their star player loses, people are saddened. Yoshida, until Rio, never failed to deliver...which lasted so long, possibly even too long, that she eventually became the star one would go to rely on delivering the win that everyone wanted. Other star athletes could lose, but Yoshida will not, and shall not, lose...because she is not allowed to lose, she is Saori Yoshida. Still, despite seeming unbeatable at times, outside wrestling Saori Yoshida is known for being very feminine. She loves to cuddle with her dog in bed with pink pajamas, and loves to eat crepes while hanging out with her juniors on off days (a high ratio of it being with Tosaka). It has almost become a staple to be asked of her goals for the year during an interview, and answer "I want to get married!" with passion, where they were expecting a wrestling related goal. Inside, she was a normal women, like any other person...but she wasn't considered as one.

Prior to yesterday, Yoshida has had times when the country thought her win streak might end. In 2014 when her beloved father and coach Eikatsu suddenly passed away due to a tradegic incident, it was unknown how she would react to not having her father at the match. She ended up winning the gold in the Asian and World championship later that year. In the 2015 finals she was trailing late in the math to Mattson, only to overtake in the last minute. Even after losing her father, she was Saori Yoshida...why did anyone have to worry, she is unfazed and still strong.

My Japanese friend was one of the countless Japanese who woke up early to watch Yoshida go for history. Her loss was shocking, but her immediate comments after the match was even more heartbreaking. After Yoshida lost, she was crying in front of the camera, desperately apologizing to the people of Japan. "How could I make up to my country, what have I done, how could I atone for this, I failed to do my job as the captain of Team Japan, I have betrayed everyone who believed in me, no amount of words can make up for this, I am so sorry..." She sounded like as if she had just commited treason. To him, watching her break down like that was a gutwrenching reminder of how much pressure and expectation the country had unfairly  continued to pile on Yoshida over the years. Who should be Team Japan captain? Lets make it Yoshida, it will make a good timing to celebrate a historical achievement by Team Japan captain in Rio. Her father passed away, so bring her mother with his photo, what a great scene it will be when she dedicates her medal to her late father. Three golds by Tosaka, Icho and Dosho? Great, now prepare the celebration article for a double four peat, we want to be the first to publish it on front page... What pressure, you think Yoshida feels pressure? No way, she is a gold winning robot afterall.

Non-Japanese wrestling fans might think her tears and breakdown after her loss was because she was sad that her chance for a fourpeat got dashed, or that she wasn't able to cope with the loss because Yoshida wasn't used to losing, or perhaps even that she felt like she had the ego and couldn't give the proper respect Maroulis deserved, or that she was simply being a dramatic loser...but I don't think that is the case. Her breakdown was a floodgate of emotions she had kept to herself for 15 years, while continuing to desperately portray THE LEGEND OF INVINCIBLE SAORI YOSHIDA the country has come to expect from her.

Following live wrestling, it was morning news for Japan. A memorable comment by one of the news caster was, "this morning, I believe everyone in Japan wanted to see the second fourpeat. We didn't get to see it, but I believe no one in Japan blames Yoshida about it. What we want isn't hearing her apologizing in tears, what we want is to say thank you to Saori Yoshida. You gave Japan three Olympic gold medals in the past three Olympics. In Rio, you gave Japan three new Olympic gold medalists."

Other countries might think now that Yoshida failed to fourpeat, Kaori Icho is the greatest female wrestler of all time. That is not the case. Kaori Icho is a legend of her own regardless of Saori Yoshida, and that takes nothing away from her accomplishments. However, Kaori Icho is a legendary Japanese wrestler, where Saori Yoshida IS Japanese women's wrestling. Whether she decides to hang up tomorrow, continue for another Worlds, or continue until her back gives out, or strive for Tokyo, it will not change what Saori Yoshida was, and is. Eri Tosaka age 22, Risako Kawai age 21, Sara Dosho age 21, and others...whether or not Yoshida herself is at Tokyo, what Yoshida symbolizes will be there to represent the host country in 2020.

Lastly, to Helen Maroulis, as a American fan who simply loves and appreciates the sport of women's wrestling, thank you for being the wrestler who defeated Saori Yoshida in the biggest stage with the utmost grace, strength, skills, but most of all...true class and respect. Your match was beautiful, flawless, and fair played, only thing outshining it was your tears and smile during the medal ceremony.
Did you know that you have become a household name in Japan overnight? The front page of all major national newspapers had a picture of you and Yoshida on them? Your name had become a top google trend search, and your interviews has been translated word for word, to every detail including how you wanted to indulge in cake, and that you don't like peanut butter. The more Japan learns about you, your personality, sincerity, passion...the more respectable, likable, and rootable you become, not as "the one who ended Yoshida's streak" but as Helen Maroulis, the 24 yrs old American female wrestler, and the Olympic gold medalist.

I would like to close my appreciation toward Helen with these words translated directly from my aforementioned friends in Japan:

"As long as Father Time exists, we should have known that someday even legends like Yoshida will suffer a loss. Yet, somewhere in our minds we were taking Saori Yoshida for granted...she was expected, and assumed to win gold, would have been wrong to not win for the country, and she had fought for 15 years carrying all that pressure by herself. All of Japan wanted to see history made by Yoshida yesterday, but unfortunately it didn't occur. However, even without the fourpeat, the country still proudly believes Saori Yoshida is the greatest female wrestler to ever play the game, and her legend and legacy isn't lessened in any way due to the loss. If anything, the fact that her first individual match loss ever came in the shape of the first women's wrestling gold medal for U.S. might be as fitting and worthy of a situation it could be for her first loss.

Past the initial shock, this probably was a best case scenario for a loss for Yoshida. Imagine, had Yoshida lost due to an injury suffered due to rough play in earlier rounds and had to forfeit. Or, her knees and back issues had reached the limit, forcing a surgery. Or, had she lost due to what could be seen like a missed or biased judging. Or, had she lost due to fluke points, then an opponent that just focused on fleeing until the time came. They all would end in a loss, except the country would be stuck in "what-if" debates and bitterness toward "the one" who won. Instead, we got an opponent who won with takedowns, and continued to fight until the last seconds with dignity, pride and respect...the way we loved watching Yoshida win for a decade and a half.

Helen Maroulis, thank you for being "the one" who showed everything to win, proved you should win, and deserved to win. That historical night, from everyone's eyes you were the strongest 53kg wrestler in the Arena. We hope to see you again in Tokyo, and hopefully, the gold medal match will yet again feature two women, each bearing the flag of the Rising Sun and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Not for a simple revenge match, but with hope to have another memorable, classic match once again"
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#2 tekto

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 04:24 AM

I forgot to mention, but I started writing this post Thursday evening, and was added while waiting for approval on the forum. If some aspects seems out of place or repetitive, my apologies.

#3 KingK0ng

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 05:09 AM

Great post tekto, a local sports columnist wrote a good article that was in yesterday's paper that you might enjoy reading.

 

http://newsok.com/wo...article/5514599



#4 pamela

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 05:38 AM

Excellent write-up, thank you for sharing.  While I'm happy about the growing media attention Helen Maroulis has been receiving I fully agree that there should be far more coverage of her significant accomplishment.  And that should include the pertinence of Saori Yoshida, her backstory and what she means to her club, her country and the sport of WFS.  American sportswriters could easily convey the gravity of Maroulis' victory in lay terms that the mainstream could easily grasp.  Describe what it would mean to knock out Muhammad Ali, or to school Michael Jordan one-on-one or to outrace Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps by 5 seconds and people will begin to get it.

 

I hope Yoshida is not ready to hang it up yet.  Based on the way she bulldozed her way to the finals, she's still "got it".  Plus, a budding rivalry with Maroulis could be really great for the sport for a few years.  However, I'm not sure Yoshida needs wrestling as much as wrestling needs Yoshida.

 

A couple of questions for @tekto:

 

1. Did anyone in the Japanese media question Yoshida's training before or after her match?  Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines, but it seemed as though some people were hinting that she may have been spending too much time making appearances and such instead of training. I'm not saying it's true or that I agree, just wondering what the locals thought.

 

2.  Is that a locket or something similar of her father that she keeps around her neck?  I never noticed it before but saw during this tournament that Yoshida is always reaching down the front of her singlet, so I was wondering what that was about.  I know her coaches bring a framed photograph of her father to her competitions.



#5 BigTimeFan

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 05:45 AM

Thanks for the write-up. Beautiful story. Women's freestyle is fantastic and stories like this one only add to the appeal.



#6 tekto

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 06:34 AM

@pamela
1. Obviously no matter who you are, there always will be a few individual who tries to stir things up. However, the absolute mass majority all have stood by Yoshida's side. If anything, local media and fan reactions were more negative about how JOC handled Saori Yoshida by crowning her "Team Japan captain" and near forcingly making her the main Olympic PR leader. In Japan, team captain position is not welcomed by athletes due to the extra time wasted outside training, but also due to the ongoing jinx that Team Japan captain cannot medal (prior to Yoshida, the captain has not gotten a medal since 92). Multiple gold medal favorites refusrd the position due to that reason, so it came to Yoshida. One might say it is Yoshida's fault that she didn't refuse like others, but due to the aforementioned expectations, she probably wasn't in a position to be able to refuse. Today there was an article about Icho regretting not supporting Yoshida more. She said that Yoshida, along with her Team Captain extra duty she was training, advising and supporting the other first time Olympian wrestlers the whole time. Being the second most senior one (and she didn't mention it herself, but she has just as much experience afterall), she admit that she could have, and should have been a similar figure to lessen Yoshida's role.

Just so people don't take it the wrong way, NO ONE is trying to say that the jinx made Helen win, or that Yoshida would've won if not for the extra work. It is just one of the many examples of how media and fans unfairly portrayed and pressured Yoshida, and admitting their own faults. And technically, Yoshida still broke the jinx, as she won a silver medal where the last five didn't make the podium despite being a prior gold favorite.

2. I think it is. I can't recall the source but I think the media has been building the story of father's memory and so on since 2014.

Edited by tekto, 21 August 2016 - 06:55 AM.


#7 pamela

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 06:45 AM

Thanks!  i can understand the concerns about Yoshida taking on team captain responsibilities.  It's a bit similar to Jordan Burroughs and Adeline Gray taking on additional but important responsibilities making appearances, being an ambassador & promoting the sport, developing a sponsorship portfolio, growing their social media presence and all the other things that come along with their status as an elite athlete. Multiply that by ten thousand, and you get what Yoshida was dealing with.  It's difficult to fathom.



#8 tekto

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 07:18 AM

Part of me makes me wonder, how history would've gone if Yoshida and Icho were in reverse position. Thinking about it, Kaori Icho is probably the most under-the-radar four peat Olympic champion in the world, which is quite ironic. She was always the "second one" to Yoshida, despite having just as glorious resume. Although it was at a much smaller stage, when Icho's 13 year long win streak ended earlier this year, it barely had media coverage or reaction even in her own country.

Again, taking nothing away from any of the wrestlers, but I can only wonder the reactions if Helen had decided to go up to 58 kg and defeated Icho for gold, and Yoshida had the exciting last minute victory for gold in 53 kg.

#9 sgallan

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 07:49 AM

Tekto - Thank you so much for this write up. It was possibly the best thing I have ever read about a wrestler in this sport we love so much.



#10 tekto

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 08:05 AM

Thankyou sgallan.
As someone who saw both sides, seeing most English articles end with Maroulis upset 3 time gold medalist Yoshida leaving her in tears, simply did not feel like it served justice for both players.
Helen's backstory is translated everywhere in Japanese, so I just wanted to share the other end too.

By the way, a popular opinion on Helen in Japan unrelated to wrestling is that she is quite cute. One portion I didn't translate frommmy friend's words in the original post was "By the way, do you know where I can find more Maroulis pics with her hair down? She looks damn hot that way."
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#11 TheRealOne9050

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 08:18 AM

Beautiful write-up.



#12 tekto

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 02:21 PM

While watching the closing ceremony and seeing Icho in that special position next to the Tonga taekwondo guy, made me wonder which they would've chose had both Icho and Yoshida had both fourpeat...

And then the PM of Japan cosplaying Mario just totally blew my train of thought. Forget sports, I forgot Japan's strongest aspect was high tech all the way.

#13 redAnklet

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 02:26 PM

Tekto, posts like yours are what make internet forums worthwhile. Excellent insight. Thank you so much for sharing!

Edited by redAnklet, 21 August 2016 - 02:27 PM.


#14 Missourimatman

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 02:32 PM

Can we move this thread to the women's forum?

#15 LJB

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 02:44 PM

yamato damashii

 

wrestling is the cruelest of sports, but, that is what makes it so worth while...



#16 Smedley

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 03:08 PM

Can we move this thread to the women's forum?

The forum is titled international wrestling. Its a relevant post. Sorry this doesn't meet your penis loving standards.
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David Taylor is a two time Spanish Grand Prix Champion.... at two different weights.


#17 OCGrappler

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 03:44 PM

This is the longest forum post that I have ever read but I am glad that I did. Very insightful and well written. It makes me hold both Helen and Saori in higher regard. Thanks for sharing it.

#18 DuckFor2

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 06:25 PM

agree, thanks for the great insight tekto. I enjoyed the read.

 

reading and listening to Helen, she gives all credit to God and is a very religious wrestler. Are the Japanese similar to that?

 

Unfortunately, wrestling seemed to be back page news for these Games, even with us winning 2 Golds. ESPN headlines talks about the Mongolian coaches stripping, NOT the fact the the youngest wrestler in US history just won the gold medal. 



#19 CA_Wrestler

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 12:46 AM

agree, thanks for the great insight tekto. I enjoyed the read.

 

reading and listening to Helen, she gives all credit to God and is a very religious wrestler. Are the Japanese similar to that?

 

Unfortunately, wrestling seemed to be back page news for these Games, even with us winning 2 Golds. ESPN headlines talks about the Mongolian coaches stripping, NOT the fact the the youngest wrestler in US history just won the gold medal. 

More like they had nothing but that Ryan Lochte idiot as the most important news out of the Olympics rather than anything else.



#20 CA_Wrestler

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 12:52 AM

While watching the closing ceremony and seeing Icho in that special position next to the Tonga taekwondo guy, made me wonder which they would've chose had both Icho and Yoshida had both fourpeat...

And then the PM of Japan cosplaying Mario just totally blew my train of thought. Forget sports, I forgot Japan's strongest aspect was high tech all the way.

I'm sure they would have picked Yoshida.  






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