To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


TOKYO (January 31) - Japan's newly crowned national champions met the New Year with training camps at the National Sports Science Center in Tokyo and a series of motivational lectures at a seaside resort in Chiba Prefecture. The men's national teams in freestyle and greco-roman held their training camp January 6-11 while the women's squad convened their six-day camp on January 17. Both camps were the first meetings of the national teams since the national championship meet in December.

   On January 19-20, the Japan Wrestling Federation's leading hopes for winning a medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens met at the seaside resort of Katsuura, Chiba Prefecture for a series of lectures by some of Japan's most recent gold medal winners. The retreat gave the wrestlers -- nine men and eight women -- a chance to relax in the spa and then listen to presentations by 1976 Montreal Olympic gold medalist Yuji Takada (freestyle, 52 kg), Hideaki Tomiyama (1984 FS, 57 kg), Atsushi Miyahara (1984 GR, 52 kg) and Mitsuru Sato (1988 FS, 52 kg) talk about their experiences on their own way to winning the Olympic championship.

   Tomiaki Fukuda, chairman of the board of directors for the JWF, spoke about the history of Japanese wrestling and its many triumphs in the Olympics. He also noted that half of Japan's gold medal winning wrestlers went into the Olympics as unheralded entries, stressing for the medal aspirants that anyone has a chance to win in the Olympics. The four gold medalist lecturers spoke about their single-minded devotion to practice and wrestling, advising the 2004 hopefuls to "Learn to use techniques both left and right," "Practice against the strongest and most difficult opponents," and "Go to the strongest countries and the countries with the strongest opponents for overseas practice."

   The men's national teams left for the United States on January 29 while the women's squad left for a tour of Russia and Germany on January 28.


TOURCOING, France (January 18-19) - A trio of cadet wrestlers won their divisions at the Schaub Women's International Tourney in Tourcoing, France, but junior and senior members of the Japanese team failed to place in the top four of their weight categories. Ai Maehara of the Chukyo Women's University affiliate high school won the 49-kg crown while high school teammate Mizuho Shibata took the title at 52 kg. Mio Nishimaki of Kansai University's first junior high school won at 56 kg and helped Japan to the cadet team title.

   Japan's 10 relatively inexperienced entries in the junior and senior competition, however, could finish no higher than fifth place as the team slumped to 12th place overall. France won the team championship, followed by Germany and the United States.


TOKYO (January 8) - The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) named four members of Japan's world champion women's wrestling team to its elite-A category for financial support leading up the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. World champions Kyoko Hamaguchi, Kaori Icho and Saori Yoshida as well as world silver medalist Chiharu Icho will each receive a monthly stipend of 300,000 yen (about $2,500) from the JOC to support their training in preparation for the Olympics.

  On the men's side, Asian Games champion Shingo Matsumoto and bronze medalist Makoto Sasamoto were named to the JOC's elite-B category which entitles them to monthly support of 150,000 yen (about $1,250). In assigning Matsumoto to the B category, the JOC reasoned that even though he had won the Asian Games greco-roman gold medal at 84 kg, many of the world's top wrestlers did not compete in the regional version of the Olympics held last October in South Korea.

  Meanwhile, former world champions Seiko Yamamoto and Hitomi Sakamoto were dropped from the elite-A category after both wrestlers failed to qualify for the national team and the world championships in 2002.