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）
YAMAMOTO BRINGS NEW FEELING TO BID FOR OLYMPIC GOLD
SOFIA (Bulgaria) - The world championship meet in Sofia was
the first since the International Olympic
Committee approved women's wrestling for
the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
But, it was business as
usual for Seiko Yamamoto, who won her third world championship crown
to kick off her bid to win a gold medal in
2004. Indications, however, are that the
road to Athens is going to be rough and arduous
-- even for one of the world's top female
wrestlers. In the second round of her preliminary
pool, Yamamoto was taken into overtime by Asian champion
Sun Dongmei of China before pulling out a 4-2 victory.
With the rapidly rising level of competitors
in women's wrestling, even a two-time champion
like Yamamoto cannot relax for even one match in the competition.
In the championship final,
Yamamoto was faced with Russia's Liubov Volosova, who forced the Japanese ace to overtime
at the World Cup meet earlier in the month.
Volosova showed little respect for the defending
champion, taking an early 1-0 lead before
Yamamoto pulled the victory out in overtime. "I
tried to muscle my opponent (in the final),"
Yamamoto said later, trying to explain the difficulty
of her bout against the physically stronger
While Yamamoto said she was "Happy" with the
championship, it was a victory that brought
home the reality -- not only to Yamamoto but also to the rest of the Japanese delegation
-- that women's wrestling has improved greatly
in a number of other countries.
But Yamamoto's quest for the gold cannot focus on potential
foreign rivals alone. At home, the
two-time world champion was saddled with
a pair of losses earlier this year by wrestlers
eager to replace her on the national team
roster. Yamamoto was hip-tossed and pinned by high school
student Kaori Icho at the Japan Queen's Cup meet in April and
then lost by technical fall in an exhibition
match at the National Sports Festival in
October by Saori Yoshida of Chukyo Women's University.
Yamamoto, however, dismissed concerns over the losses
by saying in a matter-of-fact way "When
it matters, I absolutely will not lose."
The 21-year-old Nihon University student
explained that the two losses were also blessings
in disguise since they made her get serious
after getting careless in her losses.
After her victory in Sofia,
Yamamoto watched from the top of the medals podium
as the Hinomaru flag was hoisted and the
Palace of Sport was filled with the Japanese
national anthem "Kimigayo."
The feelings and sensations of the moment
filled Yamamoto, who admitted that they also
made her aware of the Olympics some three
"I was thinking that
I would like to have these same sensations
in Athens," Yamamoto said after the awards ceremony. Tomiaki Fukuda, executive director of the Japan Wrestling
Federation, reiterated his determination
to see a Japanese wrestler win a championship
at the next Olympics. "No matter how
much the other countries get stronger, (Yamamoto)
will win the gold medal in Athens.
That's the feeling I have," Fukuda remarked.
For the Olympics, however,
the categories for women's wrestling will
be cut from six to four and this will likely
be a disadvantage for the Japanese wrestlers
who are lacking in power. However,
if the Japanese athletes and coaches each
hold the sensations of this day in their
hearts and practice diligently, then it may
not be unrealistic to see the Hinomaru hoisted
at the wrestling venue in Athens.