In a match that lasted just over a minute, Ecuador’s Lucía Yépez defeated her favored Russian opponent Ekaterina Verbina on Friday to claim the World Wrestling Cup championship in the 53 kilogram category. According to the announcer of the Belgrade, Serbia event, Yépez’s victory was “biggest surprise of the competition.”
Although Yépez has had previous success in international events, she has not finished higher than fourth place. The 20-year-old placed eighth in the 50 kg. class at the Tokyo Olympics and fifth at the Wrestling World Cup tournament in Croatia in 2019.
Even her coach, Jorge González, was surprised by her victory. “She has been recovering from a fibrillar tear injury that has kept her from other recent events and we were not sure how well she could perform at this level of competition. We are very, very happy at the outcome.”
According to González, Yépez success testifies to her “extraordinary determination and perseverance.” She took up the sport in Quevedo when she was 10, at a time when her family could not afford to buy her a leotard, her coach says. “She was so poor that she came to one of her first competitions barefoot.”
“Most of her early training was by herself,” he said, “and she was only able to afford a coach after she made money selling pens and other supplies at school.”