To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


TOURCOING (France) - Japanese women won three titles at the Schaub International in Tourcoing on January 19-20 and then edged past an up-and-coming Germany team in a dual meet in Frankfurt on January 22. Misato Shimizu (48 kg), newly crowned national champion Ninako Hattori (51) and former world champion Kyoko Hamaguchi (72) won individual titles in Tourcoing, while Ari Suzuki (63) grabbed a second place for the Japanese select team.

    Norie Saito (67) had to settle for a fourth while Toyama high school student Chikako Matsukawa (55) fell in the quarterfinals.

    In Frankfurt, Hamaguchi overcame an early three-point deficit to 68-kg world bronze medalist Anita Schatzle to earn a win in overtime at 72 kg and give Japan a narrow 4-2 win over host Germany.

    Suzuki, a runner-up in the national championships in December, could not wrestle in the dual meet because of a chest injury, so Matsukawa moved up a weight to earn a win at 63 kg and contribute to the Japanese win. Hattori and Saito also notched wins for Japan.


TOKYO - Kyoko Hamaguchi has struck out on her own -- away from the comforting presence of her father matside -- in her bid to regain the world championship title that has eluded her the last two years. The Schaub International in Tourcoing, France on January 19-20 was the debut for the newly independent Hamaguchi and the former three-time world champion (1997-1999) came away with the championship at 72 kg.

    Hamaguchi needed less than a minute to register wins in each of her three matches at 72 kg.  And, while the French meet is ranked alongside Sweden's Klippan International as one of the premier events in women's wrestling, attracting some of the best competitors from around the world, Hamaguchi's power put her far and away above the rest of the field.

    Still, reigning world champion Edyta Witkowska of Poland, who defeated Hamaguchi in the semifinals of the world championships last November, did not enter the meet -- to the disappointment of the Hamaguchi and Japanese team and fans.

    Despite her success in France, Hamaguchi wore a dark expression when she arrived back home on January 24. Two days after the Schaub International, Hamaguchi struggled for a win against a lighter opponent in a dual meet between Japan and Germany in Frankfurt.  She was paired with Anita Schatzle, who won the bronze medal at 68 kg in the world meet, and was thrown for three points by the upper-body specialist early in the bout and had to labor to get back into the match.

    After being thrown, Hamaguchi secured a front headlock a number times during the remainder of the bout, but had difficulty converting the situation for points as the combatants went out of bounds or she lost her advantage. Akira Suzuki, who managed the Japanese select team in Europe, said later "I think the match would have developed differently if she had gotten one point first by going around behind (from the front headlocks).  Instead, her determination to get two points at once was too strong and then she ended up with no points at all."

    Still, Hamaguchi was able to grab some hard-earned points and forced overtime with a third point in the final five seconds of regulation. With that, the advantage returned to Hamaguchi whose fundamental strength is unsurpassed.  Given the chance to win, Hamaguchi wasted little time scoring the deciding point to win.

    "Hamaguchi is just so much stronger than anyone else," Suzuki said after the match. It would appear that the only concern facing Hamaguchi is her inability to score points because she becomes overly excited after she fall behinds, and there is little to worry about her tough match with a lighter opponent.

    Thinking of it in another way, however, no matter what difference in physical strength there is, a wrestler is not likely to win if he/she gets agitated and is unable to carry out one's plan of attack. Since first becoming the world champion, Hamaguchi has had little experience in wrestling from behind. For this reason, there are a number of situations in which she is uncertain about what to do.

    Two years ago, in her loss to Christine Nordhagen of Canada at the world championships, this was precisely the situation.  She labored to come back from an 0-4 deficit in the first period to tie the match. But after falling behind by a point in the second period, Hamaguchi forgot herself, made a number of reckless attempts to attack as the situation got worse and worse and she lost 9-4.

    "When I fell behind, I came back by not giving up and keeping up with my attack," Hamaguchi said after the match.  But, while this "Never give up" attitude is important, it might be better if a wrestler does not forget his/her wrestling even when he/she falls behind.

    Hamaguchi also needs to gather actual match experience in the clinch position since she had no chance to practice the position prior to the world championships.  She lost in the semifinals and again in the match for third place primarily because she was unfamiliar with the clinch position. "I wanted to wrestle more (at the Schaub International).  I'm kind of unsatisfied," a disgruntled Hamaguchi said after returning to Japan.

    "From now on, I want to wrestle in as many foreign competitions as I can even if I have to go alone.  Anywhere is okay, I want to enter high-level tournaments and wrestle any wrestler, the tougher the better."

    Throughout her career, Hamaguchi has been coached and advised and seconded by her father, former pro wrestler Heigo "Animal" Hamaguchi, like a father and a daughter in a three-legged race.  But to become the true world champion of women's wrestling, she has declared her independence and plans to aggressively pursue "musha shugyo," the practice of warriors traveling to several places to improve their skills.

    With her sights set on the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, the desire to learn more techniques and strategy continues to grow in Hamaguchi. Her solitary quest to recapture the world championship title is off to a strong start. (By Ikuo Higuchi, translation by William May)


TOKYO - Women's wrestling may be added to the program of this fall's Asian Games in Pusan (Korea), according to a report to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) submitted January 11 by JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda.

    Takeda, who also serves as a vice president with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), proposed that women's wrestling be included in the Asian Games at an OCA board meeting in Kuwait on January 8 and was told that the organizing committee was working toward that goal.

    The Asian Games, the continental version of the Olympic Games, is scheduled to be held in the Korean port city from September 29 and October 14.  Wrestling is scheduled for October 1-9.