To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world
By William May
（Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public
Kyodo World Services, senior sports writer：firstname.lastname@example.org）
IOC BOARD APPROVES WOMEN'S WRESTLING FOR
TOKYO - The Executive Board of the International
Olympic Committee (IOC), meeting in Lausanne,
Switzerland on September 19, approved the
addition of women's wrestling to the program
of the 2004 Athens Olympics. The board approved
the addition of four weight categories in
women's wrestling on the condition that two
categories be cut from men's wrestling --
making a total of 18 gold medals available
in wrestling. Women's wrestling is
currently contested in six weight categories.
The final number of weight categories and
number of participants in wrestling in the
Olympics will be determined in talks between
the IOC and FILA, the International Federation
of Associated Wrestling Styles.
Learning of the IOC's
decision on women's wrestling, Tomiaki Fukuda, executive director for the Japan Wrestling
Federation and chairman of the board of directors
for the Japan Women's Wrestling Federation,
held a press conference on September 20.
Mr. Fukuda said that, with the approval of women's
wrestling for the Olympics, the wrestling
federation would first ask the Japanese Olympic
Committee (JOC) to increase its funding to
strengthen wrestling in Japan. Wrestling
is currently ranked a "B-level"
sport for the funds dispersed by the JOC
to improve the international competitiveness
of Japanese sports Wrestling receives 15
million yen annually in support from the
JOC. "A-level" sports receive 20-30
million yen a year, while those designated
"Special A-level" receive 60-80
If the JOC recognizes
that Japan has won seven gold medals in the
women's world championships the last three
years, it may well award a "Special
A-level" ranking to wrestling as a sport
with the best prospects of winning an Olympic
gold medal. Mr. Fukuda added that the results at this year's world
championships would be important reference
for the JOC and the women's team would be
aiming to bring home some more gold medals.
At the same time, Mr. Fukuda noted that a number of other countries are
expected to strengthen their own women's
wrestling programs in light of the Olympic
developments. He expressed concern
over whether Japan will be able to maintain
its position in women's wrestling three years
from now and stressed the need for continued
Meanwhile, members of
the women's national team were also excited
about the prospects of competing in the Olympics
and offered their comments.
Kyoko Hamaguchi, three-time world champion at 75 kg: "Great!
I was depressed the world championships in
New York has been called off. I haven't
felt like doing anything and wanted to take
a break away from practice. Is it really
true? If I work hard, I think something
good will happen. I will do my best
to win the the gold medal in Athens.
I will do my best to win the gold medal no
matter how many weight categories they cut,
no matter which strong wrestlers show up
and not matter what the other countries do
to strengthen their programs."
Seiko Yamamoto, two-time world champion at 56 kg: "I
still can't believe it. I still thought
that it was not possible and had halfway
given up hope (of wrestling in the Olympics).
At any rate, I'm happy. Three years
is a long time, but I hope to continue to
be No. 1 in the world. I'm a little
worried about how they will change the weight
classes, but I will do my best with all of
Hitomi Sakamoto, world champion at 51 kg: "I was very
disappointed the world championships were
called off. I'm worried about the change
in weights. But there's three years
until the Olympics and I can only try my
best and aim for the gold medal."
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS CALLED OFF AFTER TERRORIST
TOKYO - The 2001 wrestling world championships
at Madison Square Garden in New York City,
expected to be the largest championships
ever with nearly 700 athletes from 82 countries,
were called off in the wake of the terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center in lower
Manhattan on September 11.
The Japanese men's national
team was in the middle of its final training
camp at the Self Defense Forces facilities
in Saitama Prefecture and held its practice
sessions according to schedule. With FILA
left to decide whether to cancel or postpone
the championships or to move them to another
location, we spoke to national team head
coach Hideaki Tomiyama on September 15 and asked him his impressions
of the situation.
Q: What are your thoughts with the cancellation
or postponement of the world championships?
Tomiyama: "The situation in New York was shown
on television here and just from seeing that,
I thought holding the world championships
would be difficult. At a time when
thousands of people are feared dead and when
saving lives is of the utmost importance,
holding the championships at a venue nearby
would be absurd in humanitarian terms.
I fully expected that the championships would
be canceled. I think the athletes felt
the same way. It's truly regrettable
since I think everyone wanted to see the
championships held at such a prestigious
venue. It's really too bad."
Q: How did you feel when you heard news of
T: I thought 'Well, that's the way things are.'
At this morning's practice (September 15),
Nagata (Olympic silver medalist Katsuhiko
Nagata, GR 69 kg) did not even get on the
mat. Everyone is in shock."
Q: I know this situation is different, but
you also have the experience of having your
goals taken away with the boycott of the
Moscow Olympics in 1980.
T: Everyone has goals and that's why we run
and endure the pain. That was the purpose
of our final training camp here. It's
painful to lose our goals. FILA said
they plan to make a decision in the next
two weeks regarding the championships (now
expected October 10) -- whether to give it
to another country or hold it in New York
at a later date. But, if there is a
retaliation to the terrorism, it may be difficult
for any country to host the championships.
Still, without a doubt, the Olympics will
be held three years from now, so it's important
to maintain a long-term perspective about
this matter. I hope we can learn something
Q: What kind of advice are you giving the athletes?
T: "I tell them to relax and avoid injury.
We had planned our training camp to end on
the 17th, but we will finish up tomorrow
(September 16). To continue under these
conditions would be unreasonable. We'll
wait to hear from FILA and will then reschedule
our training camps accordingly."
Q: With such a young team, if the championships
are postponed, there are certainly some team
members who will get stronger over the additional
T: "Yes, I think so. If we try to
think of this in positive terms, this terrorist
attack might have also occurred during the
championships. We may have to think
that we were fortunate in this unfortunate
incident not to have encountered terrorism.
Q: If the championships are held at a later
date, you would still like to see them at
Madison Square Garden, wouldn't you?
T: We were all thrilled. Wrestling at
Madison Square Garden would be like wrestling
at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. We also
thought that the Japanese women were going
to win a number of gold medals, so this makes
the cancellation all the more excrutiating.
Q: Looking at your preparations up to this
point, to what degree have you accomplished
what you had wanted to do?
T: We've got a young team following the turnover
after the Sydney Olympics and I think they
have been coming along nicely. Obata
(Kunihiko, FS 76) has been unbelievable in
his development. He did well in the
East Asian Games and won the Budaev International.
He's also scored on Saitiev (four-time world
champion Buvaisa), so he understands where
he stands against the rest of the world,
but he I think he'll still get stronger.
Nagata has gotten stronger steadily and has
gained a lot of confidence.
Q: While you can't say 100 percent, would you
say that you achieved about 95 percent?
T: We wanted to test ourselves (at the championships).
But, this shouldn't be just about Japan.
I think (these developments) have been hardest
on the United States, which has worked so
feverishly to get ready for the championships.
WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM OFFERS COMMENTS
TOKYO - Members of the Japanese women's delegation
also offered comments in the aftermath of
the September 11 terrorist attacks on New
York and Washington.
Saburo Sugiyama, Japanese national team head coach: "There's
little that can be said or done about something
that no one could have predicted. America
is a strong country that absolutely will
not yield to terrorism. The championships
will be held without fail in the near future,
so I hope the athletes will practice all
the more, remain keyed up, hold onto their
motivation and do their best."
Gohei "Animal" Hamaguchi, Japanese national team special coach: "For
all of the victims of the terrorist attack
on the United States, we put our hands together
and offer our prayers and condolences.
I dare say that all of the athletes entered
in the world championships must be terribly
disappointed. But, when you can't go
forward and can't retreat, life is for living
and you have to live through these things.
You can't give in. At this time, in
particular, you must fight on. To the
victims of this terrible incident I want
to make my sincerest apologies, but we need
to overcome this trial put to us from above
and do our very best at the world championships."
Kyoko Hamaguchi, captain of the Japanese women's national
team: "For the victims, I pray that
they will be able to rest in peace and find
happiness in the next world. We have
all gone to great lengths to prepare for
the championships, but this incident has
occurred, so we are all depressed.
We were all excited about competing in the
United States, but it looks like it's not
going to happen. My family and supporters
have encouraged me and this has given me
a new attitude. All I can do now is
put all of my heart into practice and wait
for the next report from the wrestling association.
Since I have more and more time to practice,
I believe that I have a chance to become
stronger and stronger."
EX-OLYMPIC TEAM MEMBER FOUND DEAD
TOKYO - Two-time Olympic team member and an assistant
professor at Morioka University Junior College
Seiichi Osanai was found dead on September 26 at a retreat
house in the village of Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture.
He was 47. A charcoal stove had apparently
been used in the room where Osanai's body
was found. Prefectural police believe
that he may have died about September 24
and an investigating whether the death might
have been carbon monoxide poisoning.
Osanai developed into the national champion at
62 kg in greco-roman as a student at Nippon
College of Physical Education (today known
as Nippon Sports Science University) and
was a member of the Japanese Olympic team
that boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
He came back for an eighth place in the 1984
Los Angeles Olympics and won the gold medal
at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul. He
joined the faculty of Morioka University
in 1990 and began coaching wrestling at the
school in northeastern Japan.