To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


   RIGA (May 1) - World champions Sofia Poubouridou of Greece and Alena Kartakhova of Russia opened their bids for berths at next year's Olympic Games by earning convincing wins at the European freestyle wrestling championships in Riga on May 1.

   Poubouridou and Kartakhova won world titles last November at weight categories which unfortunately are not on the program for the 2004 Athens Games. Poubouridou won the world title at 51 kg and Kartakhova triumphed at 59 kg. Women's wrestling will be making its debut in Athens, but only the 48-kg, 55-kg, 63-kg and 72-kg weight categories will be contested.

  Poubouridou posted a pair of wins at 55 kg at RTU International Exhibition Center, but will have to defeat Sweden's Ida-Theres Karlsson, the world bronze medalist and No. 2 in Europe last year at the Olympic weight, to advance to the championship bracket.

  Kartakhova, wrestling up at 63 kg, meanwhile, overpowered Adrienn Szabovik of Hungary for a fall at 2:14. Kartakhova will meet Lene Aanes of Norway on the second day of competition for a chance to advance. Also at 55 kg, two-time defending European champion Tatiana Lazareva of Ukraine was upended 5-1 by Norwegian veteran and former four-time world champion Gudrun Hoie.

  Natalia Golts of Russia, the world bronze medalist at 51 kg who is also up at 55 kg, booked her place in the championship bracket with technical fall and a one-sided win over Sandrine Seve of France. At 48 kg, world champion Brigitte Wagner also won twice as she seeks to secure her first senior European title. Lilia Kaskarakova of Russia, who upset Wagner at the Poland Open in March, moved into the semifinals with tightly contested wins over Poland's Iwona Matkowska-Sadowska and Yuliya Voytova of Ukraine.

  At 63 kg, two-time European champion Malgorzata Bassa of Poland struggled with Ukraine's Oxana Shalikova, giving up a pair of single-leg takedowns in the first period, but came back for a pin in the second period. Sara Ericksson, who fell to Japan's Kaori Icho in the 63-kg world meet final last fall, is seeking a repeat of the European title she won at 59 kg last year after a pair of 3-2 wins.

  In the men's competition, Olympic and world heavyweight champion David Musulbes of Russia opened defense of his continental crown with a dominating 8-0 win over Poland's Marek Garmulewicz.

  The Polish veteran is the last wrestler to defeat Musulbes in a major international meet when he topped the Russian 2-1 in the finals of the 2000 European championships.

  Musulbes dumped Germany's Sven Thiele to his back in overtime for a 5-0 win. Chasing the Russian are Alexander Modebadze of Georgia, No. 2 in Europe in 2001, and Turkey's Aydin Polatci, the 1998 European champion who took a bronze medal in last year's world championships. At 55 kg, Sydney Olympic gold medalist Namik Abdullaev of Azerbaijan started with a technical fall win in just 59 seconds and received a bye in the second round.

  Four-time European champion Alexander Zakharuk of Ukraine lost 6-5 in overtime to Olympic bronze medalist Amiran Kartanov of Greece and ended the first day of competition with a win and a loss.

  Zakharuk ruled over the European lightweights from 1997 to 2000 but has won only a pair of bronze medals at the world championships (in 1999 and 2002). He also had to settle for a fifth place at the Sydney Olympics. At 66 kg, defending world champion Elbrus Tedeev of Ukraine cruised into the quarterfinals with a pin and a win by technical fall superiority.The Ukraine veteran, however, will face a stiff challenge over the next two days from 2001 world champ Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria (63 kg) and Russia's Irbek Farniev.