To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


 By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports


HALKIDA, Greece (November 3) - Kyoko Hamaguchi regained her world heavyweight crown and Japan won its 10th team title with three individual champions in the 15th women's wrestling world championships.

  Hamaguchi, who reigned as world champion from 1997 to 1999, dropped China's Wang Xu to her back out of a second-period clinch at Tassos Kabouris Stadium to win the 72-kg final 5-1 and claim her fourth world championship crown. Hamaguchi's victory capped a golden evening for Japan which saw Japanese debutantes Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho win their first world titles for Japan which regained the team championship it lost to China a year ago.

  Japan, which scored 47 points, won its 10th team title since the women's world championships were inaugurated in 1987. Sweden was second was 34 points and Russia third with 32.

  Hamaguchi, who finished in third place in the 2000 world meet and in fourth a year ago, also upended 2001 world champion Edyta Witkowska 4-0 in the semifinals to gain a measure of revenge for a loss to the Polish wrestler a year ago. Witkowska, the lone defending champion in this year's championships, came back for a 2-0 win over Turkey's Sarife Yildirim for the bronze medal.

  "I feel relieved. It's been tough, but everything went just as we had practiced," Hamaguchi said. "It's also been a tough fall (with the Asian Games, World Cup and world championships), so now I just want to get home and relax."

  At 55 kg, Yoshida hit a pair of double-leg takedowns for three points each as she raced out to a 7-0 lead in the championship final and then held off a determined Tina George of the United States for a 10-4 victory.

  "As a Japanese national team member, the only thing I was thinking about was winning," said Yoshida. "But, I've never wrestled anyone as strong as (George) before, so I was a little frightened. Still, I learned that I have to be ready for all kinds of wrestlers."

  Yoshida also romped in the morning session with a pair of wins by technical superiority -- 11-0 over Jennifer Ryz of Canada in the quarters and 10-0 over Ida-Theres Karlsson of Sweden in the semifinals. Yoshida, who won the Asian Games gold medal in October, remained undefeated against non-Japanese opponents.

  Karlsson rolled 7-1 over Konstantina Tsibanakou of Greece for third place.
Icho, meanwhile, pinned Swedish veteran Sara Eriksson to claim her second win of the day over a European champion and the world title at 63 kg. The 18-year-old Aomori native locked up Eriksson with a bar arm one minute into the second period and pried the former two-time world champion over for the fall.

  "It might sound funny, but after I lost in the Asian Games (in October), it made me stronger because I went home to think about it and became more focused," Icho said. "I want to keep this title now for the next 10 years."
Eriksson, 10 years Icho's senior, was the continental champion at 59 kg in April and was seeking her third world title after winning back-to-back crowns in 1995 and 1996. Icho also edged Malgorzata Bassa of Poland, the European champion at 63 kg, 4-1 in the quarterfinals and then forged a 3-0 win over Europe No. 2 Lene Aanes of Norway in the semifinals.

  Icho's elder sister, Chiharu Icho, however, had to settle for the silver medal after losing points in two separate clinch situations in a 3-0 overtime loss at 51 kg to Greece's Sofia Poumbouridou. Earlier, Icho claimed a 4-0 decision over Natalie Golts of Russia with a headlock out of the clinch in the semifinals. The 17-year-old Golts rebounded for the bronze medal with a 3-0 win over Lyndsay Belisle of Canada.

  Japan's lone loss in the quarterfinals came when Pan American champion Mabel Fonseca of Puerto Rico dropped Rena Iwama to her back in extra time to break a 1-1 tie and claim a 4-1 victory at 59 kg. Fonseca later earned the bronze medal with a 3-1 win, again in overtime, against France's Seve Sandrine. In the 59-kg final, Alena Cartshova of Russia blocked a back-arching throw by Sweden's Lotta Andersson to come out with a 4-0 victory and her first world title.

  At 48 kg, Brigitte Wagner of Germany scored with a front headlock-and-turn with only five seconds remaining in the final to snare a 4-3 win from Russia's Inga Karamchakova. Sweden's Ida Hellstrom pinned junior European champion Nicoleta Badea of Romania for the bronze medal.

  At 67 kg, Katerina Burmistrova of Ukraine slipped behind out of an overtime clinch to claim her first world title with a 3-2 win over three-time European champion Lise Legrand of France. American Kristie Marano took the bronze medal with a 6-1 win over Evelina Pruszko of Poland.