Patricia Miranda views a trip to Athens for the Summer Olympics as a way to forget New York City.
"Athens is my redemption for New York," said Miranda, who lost a one-point decision in the gold medal match of the 2003 World Wrestling Championships at Madison Square Garden. "Almost every day I feel the pain of losing that match. Athens is my shot at getting better."
Miranda, 24, took her most important step toward Athens by winning the 105.5-pound weight class in the Olympics wrestling qualifying tournament at the RCA Dome. She is one of the first women to qualify for the Olympics, which will have female wrestlers for the first time this summer.
"This is a very important step because you don't go to Athens without winning here," Miranda said after beating Clarissa Chun in two matches during Sunday's final round. "I'm very excited about doing this."
Another woman to make the Olympic team is Washington area native Sara McMann, who beat Alaina Berube in two matches Sunday and finished the day with a 12-2 major decision over Berube.
"I was trying to be so composed and think of this as just another match beforehand just to maintain my focus," she said. "I can't even describe how I feel right now."
McMann, 23, gained the top seed at 138.75 pounds when Kristie Marano failed to make weight the day before the trials started. She then saw her two toughest opponents -- Sally Roberts and Kaci Lyle -- lose in Saturday's second round.
"It just seemed like every obstacle in my way was removed and I had no control over that," McMann said. "You try to prepare for everything possible to happen in a weekend like this, but it's tough when strange things start happening."
Miranda is widely recognized as one of the top female wrestlers in the world. Yet she doesn't feel extra pressure from being one of the first four female American wrestlers in the Olympics (only four weight classes will be contested in women's wrestling in Athens).
"I don't feel like I'm a pioneer," she said. "There were a lot of women wrestlers out there before me. I feel like we're carrying the torch for all those who have competed in this sport for many years."
Miranda's qualifying win came moments after Tela O'Donnell upset No. 1 seed Tina George in two matches at 121 pounds to become the first woman to qualify for an Olympic spot.
"I'm really proud of myself because I have put a lot of effort into this," O'Donnell said. "I thought I wanted to be in the Olympics at an early age, but I didn't know in what sport."
O'Donnell, 23, had a bruise on her forehead and a scratch under her right eye -- badges of honor from this weekend's tournament.
"This is one of my better injuries," she said while pointing to her forehead. "I'll be happy to show this off."
O'Donnell played high school football in her home town of Homer, Alaska, before turning to competitive wrestling.
"I've had black eyes and fat lips and funny little scratches all over from playing football," she said. "Those hurt a lot more than anything I've hurt this weekend."
One of the biggest upsets in Sunday's final was in the Greco-Roman 145.5 pound men's weight class when 2000 Olympian Kevin Bracken lost two matches to up-and-comer Oscar Wood, who came into the trials seeded fifth.
Rulon Gardner, the 2000 Greco-Roman super heavyweight gold medalist, won a pair of tight 2-1 overtime decisions over top-seeded Dremiel Byers to gain a return trip to the Olympics.