WUHAN, China -- One of the Army's fiercest competitors on the wrestling mat isn't what you'd expect. Standing at five feet and three inches tall with long blonde hair, this soldier took silver during the 7th CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China.
Army Staff Sgt. Whitney Conder, from Puyallup, Washington, has been a member of the Army's World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, for the past six years. She and 11 members of the Armed Forces Wrestling team were selected to represent the United States in the CISM wrestling competition which featured Greco-Roman as well as men's and women's freestyle.
Whitney, who has been wrestling since she was 8 years old, said "I grew up watching my brothers wrestle who are eight and ten years older than me. While watching them as a little kid, I was like I want to try it too, so my dad started coaching me until I started junior high school. I wrestled on the Puyallup High School boys' team and I ended up being the first girl in the state of Washington to place in the state competition."
In China, she competed in the women's freestyle 50-kilogram events and took on Belarus wrestler Stankevich Kseniya during her first match. Whitney won the match 9-2.
"I knew she was a tougher opponent. She could be down at the beginning of the match, but come back and win the match," Whitney said. "For me, I just had to focus on wrestling a really smart match. I was scoring and I had to think, OK this is where she turns it on. She got a takedown because I let her and I was able to pin her when she tried to turn me."
During her second match, Whitney defeated Egyptian wrestler Ashour Nada with a score of 11-0.
"Whitney has been my teammate for a quite a while," said Army Sgt. Ellis Coleman, who wrestled Greco-Roman 97 kg. "I didn't expect anything less than that out of her. I knew she was going to get a medal and I think they're just going to pile on for her."
Whitney competed against Ashour before and knew that she was a strong opponent. She looked for weaknesses before turning her to score points.
"I talked to my coach before the match to remind me of what to do against her, but I had to go with what worked," explained Whitney. "You can go in with a strategy, but you use what can get you points."
The team's coach Army Staff Sgt. Spenser Mango said even though she lost gold to China, it came down to a couple of small mistakes.
"It was a very close match, but I think we've all learned from that match," said Mango
While Whitney lost to China's Yuyan Li 6-5, she said that she is grateful to be able to represent her country, the military and her family.
"I am thankful for my team and their support, as well as my family. I'm so glad to be here and doing what I love to do."