Dori Yeats just missed becoming the third Canadian woman to ever win an Olympic wrestling medal, finishing fifth in the 69kg weight class on Wednesday.
Yeats made it all the way to a bronze medal match against Sweden’s Jenny Fransson, an opponent she had never faced before. When it was over, Yeats had lost her chance to step onto the Olympic podium by a 3-1 score.
“To be honest, I was actually a bit intimidated by her in a lot of ways. She was in a heavier weight class before, was a world champion in that weight class and a previous Olympian,” said Yeats. “I kinda thought that it’s the last match of the day, I might as well give everything I have left in my gas tank and find a way to win. Honestly with two seconds on the clock I was about to win the match, I just fell short.”
Following in the footsteps of her five-time Olympian father Doug, Yeats was making her Olympic debut at Rio 2016 and was left with some mixed emotions about her effort, which she felt probably surprised a few people after her 21st place finish at last year’s world championships.
“On one hand I didn’t think I’d make it this far at my first Olympic Games,” said Yeats. “On the other hand, I felt so good today, everything in my preparation today went so well and I thought I had nothing to lose.”
Yeats made it into the bronze medal match through a little luck. She had lost her quarterfinal bout against Japan’s Sara Dosho, noting that as she was losing the match she tried to shoot more but Dosho scored more points because the shots she was trying were not set up correctly.
When Dosho advanced to the final, however, that placed Yeats into the repechage bracket, giving her a second shot at a medal. The Canadian defeated Turkey’s Buse Tosun 3-2 in her repechage match to give her the shot at the bronze medal.
Yeats had hoped to join three-time medallist Tonya Verbeek and two-time medallist Carol Huynh as a Canadian Olympic medallist in women’s wrestling. Three more women will get their chance on Thursday as Jillian Gallays competes in 53kg, Danielle Lappage goes in 63kg and Erica Wiebe hits the mat in 75kg. They’ll be looking to continue Canada’s medal streak in women’s wrestling that dates back to the discipline’s Olympic debut at Athens 2004.
As an athlete who has stood on just about every major podium – including gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games, gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, gold at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and silver at the 2012 World Championships – Yeats is taking many positives from Rio as she looks towards Tokyo 2020.
“I just have tons of confidence now for the future. I know exactly what I need to work on,” she said. “With four matches I have a really nice idea of what the Olympics are all about and knowing my opponents and how I can improve.”