Kiszla: Denver native Adeline Gray now six minutes away from Olympic redemption five grueling years in the making

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MAKUHARI, Japan — After enduring 5 years of symptom and anxiousness that dared her to discontinue wrestling, Adeline Gray is six tantalizing minutes distant from yet pinning down her imagination of bringing a golden medal backmost to Denver.

“You ne'er cognize what’s going to hap astatine the Olympics. It’s a antithetic attitude, it’s a antithetic energy,” Gray said Sunday. “People travel to wrestle. They travel to crippled … So I’m conscionable gladsome I was capable to airy up the stage.”

Now, astatine the extremity of a agelong and winding roadworthy backmost to the Games aft the bitter disappointment of failing to medal astatine Rio de Janeiro successful 2016, there’s 1 much delicious crippled twist: Gray has to bushed 1 of her champion friends successful the athletics to decorativeness the job.

Her foe is Aline Rotter Frocken. Go ahead, I situation you to effort to accidental the names of the combatants 3 times fast! I indispensable advise, however, that you not effort it successful the beingness of impressionable children.

In the tight-knit sisterhood of planetary wrestling, Gary and Rotter Frocken are adjacent capable to beryllium twins. But a golden medal cannot beryllium divided down the middle, truthful this lucifer is going to beryllium arsenic aggravated arsenic sibling rivalry.

“I invited her to my wedding,” said Gray, who has competed against Rotter Frocken since some 30-year-old women were teenagers. “So I’ve got to get my crippled look on.”

While breaking Rotter Frocken’s bosom is the past happening Gray wants to do, it won’t halt her from taking the German down hard to the mat.

“We are bully friends. And we’re ever joking that we privation to conscionable each different successful the Olympic finals,” Rotter Frocken said. “I cognize she won’t effort to termination my body.”

Gray has been chasing this imagination excessively agelong to fto relationship get successful the mode of her goal. After wounded wrecked her plans to triumph golden successful Brazil, she grunted done astir 3 years of carnal duress to afloat rehab a busted shoulder.

When the pandemic delayed the 2020 Summer Games and her planned status for 12 months, Gray besides deferred plans to commencement a household with her husband, Damaris Sanders — among the contingent of loved ones rising earlier dawn backmost successful Colorado to ticker her wrestle successful Japan.

Reaching the finals of the Olympic tourney is an all-day slog. Gray walked distant victorious from the mat 3 times Sunday wrong a dimly lit accumulation hallway adjacent to an outlet promenade connected the outskirts of Tokyo. It took 8 tense hours, a agelong clip to stew betwixt each match’s six minutes of unscripted fury. That’s not easy, not successful the least.

“I person immoderate bad-ass wrestlers successful this value class,” Gray said.

OK, she did marque abbreviated enactment of Zaineb Sghaier of Tunisia successful the opening bout, signaling a pin successful 2 minutes, 11 seconds. Quarterfinal hostile Yasemin Adar, the 2017 satellite champ from Turkey, proved trickier. Gray raced to a 6-0 lead, past had to fend disconnected her foe’s closing fury of desperation to flight with a two-point victory.

Then things truly got blistery astatine Makuhari Messe Hall during the semifinal match. It began arsenic 5 minutes of strangely awkward pushing and shoving, past ended with 60 frantic seconds that forced Gray to marque a 911 telephone to each ounce of endurance instinct successful her 168-pound body.

“It was a small spot person than I expected it to be,” Gray admitted.

When 22-year-old Aiperi Medet Kyzy of Kyrgyzstan initially seemed much inclined to slap Gray connected the noggin than prosecute successful immoderate meaningful combat, the pridefulness of Bear Creek High School was awarded a constituent successful punishment of her foe’s passive-aggressive tactics.

Gray accrued her pb to 2-0 erstwhile she forced Kyzy to measurement retired conscionable earlier the contest’s halfway point. Guilty of milking the timepiece alternatively of attacking, Gray was forced to scramble to debar a takedown, and erstwhile her precarious presumption was waved disconnected with nary points to Kyzy, the telephone for video reappraisal was made from the Kyrgystan corner.

The outgo of a failed situation successful wrestling is simply a point. And that point, which enactment Gray up 3-0 with 64 seconds remaining connected the clock, was what saved her, arsenic she got caught successful a clasp that caused her to hop connected 1 ft and yet surrender a two-point takedown precocious successful the match.

“Your bosom rate’s up successful a wrestling match, truthful I’m not going to accidental it’s not,” admitted Gray, who gutted retired the last 15 seconds connected her feet to sphere a 3-2 victory. “But I don’t panic.”

Now, Gray indispensable bushed the Rotter Frocken retired of a longtime person to triumph gold. Truth is stranger, arsenic they say. You couldn’t marque this worldly up.

“It’s similar a movie,” Rotter Frocken said.

You mightiness privation to battalion a hankie for the last scene.

Here’s betting the victor and loser some outcry successful each other’s arms, with hugs truthful choky their hearts bushed arsenic one.

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