To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world
By William May
（Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public
Kyodo World Services, senior sports writer：email@example.com）
SAKAMOTO TO ADVANCE ON ATHENS WITH RETREAT
SOFIA (Bulgaria) - A day after Seiko Yamamoto gave Japan the gold medal at 56 kg, Hitomi Sakamoto repeated her championship at 51 kg.
And even though Japan came out second best
to China in the team standings, winning two
individual championships preserved Japan's
position as a leading country in women's
In contrast to the struggles
that Yamamoto had in nailing down her gold medal, Sakamoto virtually cruised to her championship. Sakamoto's head coach at Chukyo Women's University
Kazuhito Sakae, believing firmly in the pending victory
of his wrestler, told Japanese reporters
before the 51-kg championship final "If
she wins, I might put on a little show for
In actuality, Sakamoto breezed through the preliminaries and into
the finals without any cause for concern
over her wrestling. "I really happy
with this year's championship over last year's
victory," Sakamoto said after registering a technical win over
Stephanie Murata of the United States in the 51-kg final. It
marked the first time that Sakamoto was 100 percent physically in the past year.
One year ago, Sakamoto was wrestling on some strained ligaments
in her left knee. She thought about
pulling out of the East Asian Games in Osaka
in May (which she eventually won with three
pins) and even considered retiring from wrestling.
Overcoming these trials made the championship
in Sofia all the more meaningful.
With an eye on winning
the Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004,
Sakamoto is planning to have surgery done on her
left knee in January and will take a year
off from competition. "I'm a little
concerned about not competing for so long,
but I don't want to continue overdoing things
and then have everything fall apart in Athens,"
Sakamoto said about her plans to "move forward
Japan will lose its powerful
ace for a while, but looking ahead to a victory
in Athens, Sakamoto may only be as strong
as her two knees will allow her to be.