Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

No Holds Barred: Jenny Wong on the Growth of Women's Wrestling 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with women's wrestling pioneer Jenny Wong.

From 2000 to 2008, Jenny Wong was a member of the U.S. National Team in women's freestyle wrestling. From 2002 to 2007, she was also a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In 2003, she won a world bronze medal at 51 kg/112.25 lbs., at the World Wrestling Championships at New York's Madison Square Garden, whose finals drew over 12,000 spectators. It was only in 2004 that women's wrestling was added to the program of the Olympic Games.

Before retiring from competition in 2008, she won numerous other competitions and medals. She then went to medical school at the Des Moines University-Osteopathic Medical Center and graduated in 2012, and now is an Emergency Medicine Resident Physician at the Henry Ford Health System, which is based in Detroit, Michigan. She is also an athlete representative on the Sport Science Committee at USA Wrestling.

We spoke with Jenny Wong by phone this week.

While she was actively competing, she witnessed a growing acceptance of women's wrestling. Towards the end of her high school wrestling career, "It wasn't really something that was a big deal anymore," she said. She then wrestled on men's teams in college, as well as the U.S. women's team.

"As I moved on there was more acceptance. It became a lot easier to get practice partners. There wasn't such a struggle anymore," she said.

But acceptance is not universal, even in the U.S.

"I do keep hearing about women here and there that are having trouble wrestling for their high school team, so that still exists, but it's a lot better environment, more accepting environment nowadays, I think."

Her wrestling career spanned the time that women's wrestling made historic strides forward. "We've come a long way," she said, but added that there is still "a way to go."

We discussed her own attraction to the male-dominated sport of wrestling, the kinship the wrestling community offered, as well as some of the problems in wrestling, including the decision by several women wrestlers including herself to leave the U.S. Olympic Training Center and train elsewhere.

While she also has an interest in other combat sports such as MMA and jiu-jitsu, as a doctor she is well aware of the dangers of concussions and the growing medical studies about head trauma, brain injuries, and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). We discussed that burning issue including the revelations in the documentary film "League of Denial" about brain damage and the attempted coverup by the NFL in American football, as well as the implications for the combat sports, and much more.

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