To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


LODZ, Poland (March 15-16) - Japan won four championship titles in the women’s wrestling event at the Poland Open after putting all five members of its abbreviated squad into the finals.

  Reigning world champion Kaori Icho rebounded from a loss in the Klippan Open a week earlier in Sweden to win the 63 kg division and lead the Japanese charge at Lodz Sport Hall. Meanwhile, taking home the championship hardware for a second week in a row for Japan were Chiharu Icho (51 kg), Seiko Yamamoto (55) and Kyoko Hamaguchi (72). Also for Japan, Norie Saito had world silver medalist Lise Legrand of France in trouble in the final at 67 kg, but had to settle for second place after a 7-3 loss.

  Despite the four titles, Japan still only finished in third place in the team standings with 170 points behind larger teams from Germany (240) and Russia (180).

  Former world champion Miyu Yamamoto and 2002 FILA female wrestler of the year Saori Yoshida remained in Japan to nurse injuries and missed the European tour.

  At 63 kg, Icho, who will be entering Chukyo Women’s University next month, scored a pair of three-point takedowns on her way wrapping up Germany Stephanie Gross 10-0 in 5:33 of the final. Icho’s four wins by fall or technical superiority included a pin over Lene Aanes of Norway after she spotted the world bronze medalist a 2-0 lead in the first period.

  The only opponent to take Icho the distance was Malgorata Bassa of Poland, who held the Aomori native to just two points over regulation. In the overtime clinch, however, Icho wasted no time in cranking the 2002 European champion to her back for a 5-0 victory.

  “I think the loss in Klippan helped me learn a few things,” Icho said after the final. “I want to keep getting better. I also think I need to get stronger physically.”

  At 72 kg, Hamaguchi gave 67-kg world champion Katerina Burmistrova second thoughts about wanting to move up into the heavyweight category, driving the Ukrainian to her back for a fall at 2:47 of the semifinals. The 72-kg weight class is one of four categories to be contested in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where women’s wrestling will be making its Olympic debut.
The other weight categories on the Olympic schedule are 48 kg, 55 kg and 63 kg, leaving wrestlers like Burmistrova to consider whether to move up or down a class for a chance to compete in the Olympics.

  For a second straight week, Hamaguchi had her hands full with Russia’s Svetlana Martinenko, but pulled out a 4-2 win with a late single-leg takedown and go-behind in a pool match.

  “It’s been a long tour. I gave my best, but I think I still need more practice,” said Hamaguchi. “I’ll continue to train hard and do my best to win the next tournament.”

  Yamamoto, on the comeback trail after missing the fall wrestling season in Japan with a heel injury, pulled out a hard-fought 4-3 win over European champion Tatiana Lazareva of Ukraine in the final at 55 kg. Yamamoto gave up a three-point knee pick to Lazareva early in the second period to fall behind 3-1. The former world champion came back, however, with a high crotch single and a pair of spin-behind takedowns -- the last at 5:45 -- to claim her second tourney triumph in two weeks.

  “It was more like a fight than a wrestling match,” Yamamoto said of her bout with Lazareva, alleging that she was bitten and that her opponent pulled her hair to set up the knee pick against her. “I should have been more aggressive myself, but I was just a little too tight.”

  “The injury doesn’t bother me anymore,” Yamamoto said about the heel that kept her out of the national championships. “I was a little worried about my physical condition, but the tour has really helped to restore my confidence.”

  At 51 kg, Chiharu Icho continued with her purple patch of form, adding two falls, a win by technical superiority and a 9-0 romp to the four pins she notched in winning the Klippan crown. For the second week in a row, Icho pinned Germany’s Alexandra Demmel for the championship, finishing a high-crotch by taking the German to her back for the fall at 3:53.

  “Fifty-one kilograms is not an Olympic weight category, so there aren’t too many opponents around. I’d really like to wrestle against tougher opponents,” said Icho, who finished with the silver medal at the 2002 world meet. Asked about a possible move to 48 kg for a chance to wrestle in the Olympics, Icho said she would wrestle at 51 kg in this year’s world championships in New York and then try to move down.

  At 67 kg, Saito stormed into the finals with two pins and a win by technical superiority and had the early momentum in the final against Legrand, scoring with a go-behind and a chest-high tilt for a 3-1 lead at the intermission. Saito, however, surrendered the momentum when she went on the defensive in the second period. She gave up a double-leg takedown, a high-thigh rollover and then a gut wrench to fall 7-3.

  “I feel pretty good that I scored some points on a world championship finalist, but I hope to win next time,” said Saito, who placed seventh at last year’s world meet in Greece. Saito, who won her first national title in 1995 with a win over Hamaguchi, added that she would only move up to 72 kg and challenge the four-time world champion “after I win the world championship at 67 kg.”

  A total of 93 women from 14 countries and 89 men from 10 countries took part in the competition.

Results of Japanese entries:

51 kg
- Chiharu Icho, Chukyo Women's University

1R - bye
2R - def. Sylvia Barberek, Poland by tech. sup. 10-0, 1:23
3R - def. Agata Zuromska, Poland by fall, 1:26 (5-0)
SF - def. Elena Tolstenko, Russia 9-0
CH - def. Alexandra Demmel, Germany by fall, 3:53 (7-0)

55 kg - Seiko Yamamoto, Nihon University

1R - def. Olga Smirnova, Russia by fall, 0:31 (4-0)
2R - bye
3R - def. Natalia Karamchakova, Russia 7-0
SF - def. Gudrun Hoie, Norway by fall, 4:28 (12-1)
CH - def. Tatiana Lazareva, Ukraine 4-3

63 kg - Kaori Icho, Chukyo Women's University

1R - def. Oxana Shalikova, Ukraine by tech. sup. 11-0, 3:59
2R - def. Anna Polavneva, Russia by fall, 5:48 (12-3)
3R - def. Malgorata Bassa, Poland 5-0, 6:03
SF - def. Lene Aanes, Norway by fall, 4:49 (7-2)
CH - def. Stephanie Gross, Germany by tech. sup. 10-0, 5:33

67 kg - Norie Saito, Japan Beverage

1R - def. Valerina Zlatova, Ukraine by fall, 2:49 (6-0)
2R - def. Agnieszka Wieszczek, Poland by tech. sup. 10-0, 1:38
3R - def. Katarzyna Jaworska, Poland by fall, 3:48 (4-0)
CH - lost to Lise Legrand, France 3-7

72 kg - Kyoko Hamaguchi, Japan Beverage

1R - def. Nina Englich, Germany 5-0
2R - bye
3R - def. Svetlana Martinenko, Russia 4-2
SF - def. Katerina Burmistrova, Ukraine by fall, 2:47 (8-0)
CH - def. Anita Schatzle, Germany by fall, 2:54 (6-0)