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Helen Maroulis’s perfect response to Ryan Lochte overshadowing her historic gold medal

Helen Maroulis won gold on Thursday. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

RIO DE JANEIRO — One day after winning the United States’ first Olympic gold medal in women’s wrestling, Helen Maroulis said she plans to return four years from now and defend her title at the Tokyo Games.

The Rockville native will be just 28 years old then, and she said it was always her plan to compete for gold here at the Rio Games and stick with the sport through the 2020 Olympics.

U.S. wrestler Helen Maroulis faces down legend Saori Yoshida to win gold

Maroulis said at a news conference Friday afternoon that she was still processing her emotional win over Japan’s Saori Yoshida, a legend in the sport.

“I was crying because I thought of all the struggles that I went through,” she explained. “It’s one thing that I’m going to sacrifice for my own dream, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you know that someone else is sacrificing for your dreams, that my parents are sacrificing for my dreams, that my coach sacrificed for my dreams. He’s not getting the glory that I get. He doesn’t get the medal, my parents don’t get the medal. I was just crying because now I have this to share with all of them. ”

Two years of training for this: Helen Maroulis’s shot at the best female wrestler ever

Not surprisingly, Maroulis is as poised and comfortable off the mat as she is on it. She was asked whether she was bothered that the controversy surrounding swimmer Ryan Lochte overshadowed her big day, and her answer was a reminder of what drives most Olympians to compete at this level. Hint: It’s not mega-sponsorship checks and primetime interviews with Billy Bush.

“I didn’t come here to win a gold medal for the media attention,” she said. “I didn’t come here to win a gold medal in order to find something within myself or some peace within myself. I found that self-worth before I stepped on the mat. I think that’s why I won the gold medal.

“Yesterday was about stepping on the mat and just wrestling to the best of my ability and really taking joy in what I do. If they covered Ryan Lochte over my match, well, I think that’s a poor decision on their part, but I’m not running the show. My job is to be a wrestler, and I stepped on the mat and did what I needed to do. I’m happy with the results.”

Four years ago, Helen Maroulis grappled with failure

Brazilian authorities removed two U.S. swimmers, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, from their flight home on Aug. 17. Here's why that happened. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt Hazlett/The Washington Post)