To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


   TOKYO (July 9) - Reigning world champions Kyoko Hamaguchi and Saori Yoshida were named to the Japanese squad for the women's world championships in September as the Japan Wrestling Federation aimed to field the strongest line-up possible for the New York meet. The announcement precluded a much-anticipated showdown on July 16 between Yoshida and former three-time world champion Seiko Yamamoto for the berth at 55 kg. Yamamoto, who holds a 2-1 advantage in bouts with Yoshida this year, will instead challenge for the 59-kg spot in a wrestle-off with Asia champion and former world No. 2 Rena Iwama.

  Yoshida will be aiming to defend the title she won in her world championship debut at last year's meet in Halkida, Greece. Hamaguchi, meanwhile, was named to the Japanese world team for a ninth straight year, equaling the mark of nine straight trips to the world championships set by Shoko Yoshimura from 1987 to 1996. There was no world meet in 1988.

  Yoshimura, who failed to make the Japanese world team in 1997 and 1998, qualified for the 1999 world championships for a record 10th appearance in the meet.

  In addition to the Yamamoto-Iwama showdown at 59 kg, high school phenom Makiko Sakamoto will square off with former world champion Miyu Yamamoto for the berth at 48 kg. Makiko's older sister and former FILA wrestler-of-the-year Hitomi Sakamoto takes on long-time rival and world silver medalist Chiharu Icho at 51 kg. Kaori Icho, Japan's third title winner from last year's world meet, goes up against Ayako Shoda, who won her third Asia title last month, at 63 kg. Eri Sakamoto, a cousin of the lighter Sakamoto sisters, will face another Asia champion, Norie Saito, for the berth at 67 kg.

  The JWF will formally announce its line-up for the world championships after the trial matches on July 16. National teams head coach Hideaki Tomiyama said the JWF wants to select a team of "wrestlers who can win at the worlds."

  The final selections will be based upon the results of last December's national championship meet, the Japan Queens Cup in April and trial matches at training camps this spring and summer.

  The JWF added, however, that selections for next year's Olympic Games in Athens remain wide open and stressed that qualifying for the Olympics at September's world championships will not guarantee a wrestler a position with the Japanese Olympic team.

  Women's wrestling will be making its Olympic debut at the 2004 Games in Athens, but only four of the seven weight categories -- 48, 55, 63, 72 kg -- have been designated as Olympic events.