By Patrick Lujan
Fourteen years of wrestling, 10 Oceania gold medals, countless other international medals and now her second appearance in the biggest sporting stage in the world.
26-year-old Maria Dunn is entering her second Olympic Games more prepared physically and mentally then she’s ever been in her life – a vast difference compared to her first Olympic rodeo in Beijing four years ago.
“You don’t realize the Olympics until you’re there. It’s a whirlwind,” Dunn said while training in Wigin, England. “It’s always about winning and getting the result you desire, but when you’re there, it’s the experience and the whole world coming together for two weeks.
“(Beijing) was too much, I didn’t know what to think and what to expect. It was so much pressure. Last time, I was really down on how I did because I wasn’t well prepared. What I have now, is I’m actually staying in the country to where the Games are at. I just have to drive four hours. I’m acclimated, I know the weather. It’s like driving from Yigo to Southern High, unlike flying across the world. I’m approaching it like a regular tournament.”
After graduating from the University of Guam in the spring of 2011, Dunn put her focus solely on the London Games and with a few short weeks away, her sacrifice over the last year is on par with her game plan.
“I’ve worked a lot harder. It’s not about these Olympics for me, it’s about the last 14 years that I’ve wrestled. It’s about stepping away from the career. I’m not going to wrestle forever. I have other life goals, I want to have a family. This event, to me, is the pinnacle of my career. I’ve given myself the last year to give my best chance. I want a better result than the last time. I definitely trained to win, not to go and have a good time. I want to leave the mat with no regrets at all.”
Dunn is not only putting her mind in thought but surely in action – training two to three times a day in the small British town and strategically building muscle to reach her physical prime in the 63kg class when her first match begins on Aug. 7.
“Right now I’ve put on about eight pounds of muscle (67 kg). I’ve been training really hard. My diet is immaculate and it’s definitely not fat. I’m just building muscle throughout and I don’t want to get to the point where it’s too heavy, so we’re starting to taper off.”
Already in full training mode, Dunn was in the midst of trying to qualify for the Olympics at several different tournaments.
While attempting to register for another qualifier in Helsinki, Finland in May, she was told that she didn’t need to register because she had already been selected by the Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées, the world governing body that selected only three male and female athletes from around the world to give them a shot in the London Games.
“I was confused, but I was really excited. It was a stressful time because we had to go through a lot of qualifiers. It was a really honorable selection. I would’ve wanted to qualify through the other tournaments but it was a pleasant surprise as to how I was selected. People on committees had faith in my abilities, people I don’t even know.”
After the Games
“I’m ready to coach,” the Yigo resident said about her plans after competing in the Olympics.
“There have been a lot of girl wrestlers that have come out. It’s sad on Guam because sports isn’t seen as something you can be successful at. To me, I’ve seen so many wrestlers that have been amazing but they don’t have any family support, structure or knowledge on how to apply for college.”
Dunn, who is the only female wrestler to receive a college scholarship for wrestling at Missouri Valley College, looks to help pave the way for our island’s young athletes who look to use wrestling as a springboard to higher learning.
Notes:Maria’s undergraduate degree from UOG is in Art. She wants to get her master’s and eventually teach Art at UOG. “It’s a passion of mine”!…Maria is engaged to British wrestler
…She says while training in England, there are days when she’s experienced all four seasons in one day.
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