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Ronda Rousey Becomes First U.S. Woman to Win an Olympic Medal in Judo

Aug. 13, 2008, 4:19 p.m. (ET)

(Beijing, China) - Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / Santa Monica, Calif.) made history on Wednesday night when she became the first U.S. woman to win a medal since judo was introduced as a full medal sport for women in 1992.

The reigning World silver medalist, Rousey won five matches in the 70kg division with only one loss in overtime en route to winning the bronze medal.

After blasting through her first two opponents - Nasiba Surkieva (TKM) and Katarzyna Pilocik (POL) - with wins on the ground in just over three minutes between the two matches, Rousey lost more than three minutes into overtime when 2005 World Champion Edith Bosch (NED) threw her for ippon (instant win).

"I think I fought my absolute best today," Rousey said. "The match I lost was a great match. I didn't even feel myself being thrown, but when I looked at it later, it was actually a pretty good throw!"

In the repechage, Rousey threw Rachida Ouerdane (ALG) for a koka (smallest points) and then pinned her for ippon (instant win) to advance to the evening session.

Rousey's next match ended in similar fashion when she threw 2007 World medalist Anett Mészáros (HUN) for a yuko (quarter-point) to advance to the bronze-medal final.

"When I was waiting to go up, I was confident and I really felt like I'd already won. I was making a list of all the things I was going to do after the match. I was going to look up in the stands at my mom. I think I even thought of what I'd say to reporters, but I've forgotten those!" Rousey laughed.

Rousey's confidence paid off in her final match. Although Rousey lost to Annett Boehm (GER) in 2007, she seemed in little danger of facing the same fate on Wednesday night when she threw Boehm with a sode (sleeve throw) and for a yuko score that she held on to for the remainder of the match.

"Honestly, I didn't think I'd be able to come here and throw lefties with sode. That was the throw I used against Bosch in the semis at Worlds so I would've thought people would have scouted it out, but I got it off a couple times today," Rousey said.

Rousey's final win was greeted with cheers from her U.S. teammates.

"I'm not used to people chanting, 'USA! USA!" when I'm competing," Rousey said. "It was nice to have kind of a home crowd here today."

Rousey now becomes a member of an elite club of only nine U.S. judo athletes to win medals at the Olympic Games - and the only woman to achieve the feat since women's judo was added as a full medal sport to the program in 1992.

"Actually, I didn't know that until the reporters just told me. A close friend of my family - Lynne Roethke - won a silver medal in 1988, but I didn't realize it was a demonstration sport then," Rousey said. "It was surprising to hear that, but it's just frosting on the cake. It doesn't change anything, though. I'm still happy."

Rousey's medal is another for the family collection as mother AnnMaria DeMars (Burns) won the World Championships in 1984.

"My mom always said she wanted me to be the best in the world because no matter whatever happens you always know that you can do anything," Rousey said. "I was nervous about disappointing my mom if I didn't win, but she said she just wanted that feeling that I could do anything for me, but she said she wouldn't be disappointed in me no matter how I did."

Beaming throughout interviews, Rousey said she was just as excited to win the bronze as she would have been to win the gold.

"I already felt accomplished before today. It sounds corny, but a medal is just an inanimate object. It's really about the journey and I've gotten to do more in 21 years than most people do in three lifetimes," Rousey said.

After the Games, Rousey plans to take a year off to attend college in Southern California.

"I'm a vegan starting today. And I want to do all those things normal people do. I'm gonna buy car and learn how to surf. I have a whole list. It's kinda late to go to the prom, but I'll make up for it somehow!" she said.