When I read about Asian Americans Competing in the 2012 Olympics, I looked through the Northwest Asian Weekly yearbook-like pictures. The one Olympian that jumped out at me was Clarissa Chun, a diminutive Asian girl that had the word “Wrestling” under her picture. I started looking up videos of her wrestling matches, and despite having no idea how wrestling works, I was hooked, especially when I saw her slip under her larger opponent, wrap her arms around the other wrestler’s torso, lift, and smash the opponent down in a way that would have made the Incredible Hulk proud. More after the jump.
Chun executed that sweet move in the match that qualified her for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. See video below at 7:50.
In 2008, she finished 5th, just shy of a bronze, but the girl came back with a vengeance, qualifying again as the first U.S. women’s wrestler to make a second Olympics (watch that match here).
Coming full circle, she beat the opponent she lost to in 2008 and took home a Bronze Medal, the first medal for US wrestling at London 2012.
Born and raised in Honolulu to Japanese American and Chinese American parents, Chun started as a Judo girl and didn’t go into wrestling until the end of high school. Despite what most would consider to be a late start in wrestling, she has a long resume of accomplishments, starting with Hawaii State champion in 1998, a Women’s Freestyle World Championships Gold Medal in 2008, Women’s World Cup in Tokyo 2012, and finally the Olympic Bronze 2012, just to name a few highlights.
Being a small Asian girl myself, I know what it’s like to live under the stereotype of being a weakling submissive pushover, when people will feel a-okay in screaming in my face and not my much taller and wider Caucasian male colleague and peer in the next room (true story). When I roll down my car window to enjoy the weather only to be harassed by the guy or carload of guys nearby (to which I reply by cranking up a death metal song to shock and drown them out). To have to deal with harassment from random strangers on the street or witness my other Asian heritage female peers have to endure the same. I mean, if sports superhero Jeremy Lin can be treated like he’s just going to sit by like a good little boy while the New York Nicks cuts him short, you can get a sense of what it’s like to be me, always having to posture and assert myself and make it absolutely clear that I am not to be overlooked or considered an easy target to be bullied just because I am of Asian heritage and female. Even the local neighborhood elderly librarian tried to kick me out of the library for “loitering” thinking I was a preteen student form the local middle school waiting for my mom to pick me up. Imagine the look on her face when I opened my mouth and spoke with the voice of a 33 year old woman. Seriously. If an elderly librarian lady automatically thinks she can boss me around, who wouldn’t?
So you can understand why heroes like Clarissa Chun are so inspiring to me and such an important image and concept to place into the American and world consciousness. Yes, she is female. Yes, she is Asian heritage. Yes, she looks 12 even though she’s 30 years old. Yes, she is 4’11” and 105.5 lbs. But you know what? You’re looking at 4’11”, 105.5 lbs of pure muscle, bone, and iron will. Underestimate and you’ll have no one else to blame but yourself when you end up a victim of a Chun Smashdown.
Next time you see a harmless looking Asian girl, just remember the wise words of the wizard from Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail: “I warned you, but did you listen to me? Oh, no, you ‘knew’, didn’t you? Oh, it’s just a harmless little ‘bunny’, isn’t it?”