To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  ATHENS (January 23-24) - World champions Kyoko Hamaguchi and Chiharu Icho captured gold medals at the Olympic test event held at the recently completed wrestling venue for this summer's Games in Athens. For five-time world champion Hamaguchi, it was a chance to avenge a pair of losses suffered in last October's World Cup while Icho signaled she is ready to put Japan back on top at wrestling's lightest weight category.

  Hamaguchi opened with a fall over Christine Nordhagen of Canada, cranking the six-time world champion over with an arm bar in the final minute of a hard-fought bout at 72 kg. Hamaguchi lost to Nordhagen in the women's World Cup meet, after being tripped to her back late in the bout in Tokyo.

  In the semifinals, Hamaguchi also gained a measure of revenge against America's Toccara Montgomery, who also saddled the Japanese ace with a loss in the World Cup meet. Hamaguchi trailed 2-3 early in the second period against Montgomery, but quickly leveled the score. Shen then scored the deciding takedown 31 seconds into overtime.

  This was a match in which I did some good things and some bad things. But, I kept my focus from start to finish,・Hamaguchi said after her match with Montgomery. No matter what happens during the match, it's nice to have your hand raised (in victory) at the end. I was able to avenge my loss (in the World
Cup), and now we can look to Athens.・

  In the final, Hamaguchi broke open a 1-1 bout with Spain痴 Maider Unda with four unanswered points to claim the gold medal with a 5-1 victory.

  Meanwhile, at 48 kg, Icho edged world silver medalist Patricia Miranda 3-1 in preliminary pool action and served notice that she may well be among the gold medal favorites when women's wrestling makes its Olympic debut in Athens this summer. Icho, who won the world title at 51 kg last September, made a successful international debut at 48 kg after taking the national championship title from Makiko Sakamoto in December.

  The Aomori native struggled against Canada's Lyndsay Belisle before nailing down a 3-2 win in the semifinals and then stopped 2001 European cadet champion Larisa Oorzhak of Russia 8-0 in the final. Icho, who is still not fully recovered from an elbow injury, insisted that she wasn't thinking about winning the tournament. It wasn't able to wrestle my best,・Icho said after the tourney, but confided that she was 屠ust trying to learn something・about the other
wrestlers in the field at 48 kg.

  They've quicker at 48 kg,・Icho said, adding that she plans to work on her own quickness and stamina in the coming months. Icho, however, will have to think first about securing her position on the Japanese Olympic team by winning the Japan Queen's Cup competition at the end of February.

  A win would give Icho a chance to earn Japan's first medal at wrestling's lightest weight since Miyu Yamamoto took a silver at 46 kg in the 1998 world championships. Japan's last gold medalist at the minimum weight was Shoko Yoshimura, who nailed down her fifth and final world title in 1995.

Results of Japanese wrestlers:

48 kg - Icho, Chiharu
1R - df. Sara Sanchez (ESP) by TF, 10-0, 1:57
2R - df. Yuliya Voitova (UKR) by TF, 11-0, 5:52
3R - df. Patricia Miranda (USA) 3-1
SF - df. Lyndsay Belisle (CAN) 3-2
F1 - df. Larisa Oorzhak (RUS) 8-0
51 kg - Hattori, Ninako
1R - bye
2R - df. Alexandra Demmel (GER) 3-0
3R - df. Maria del Mar Peralta (ESP) by fall, 0:26 (1-0)
55 kg - Sekine, Yu
1R - bye
2R - lost to Dilleta Giampicolo (ITA) 11-12
3R - df. Desislava Lubenova (BUL) 17-13
59 kg - Iwama, Rena
1R - df. Evgenia Stamatakou (GRE) by fall, 2:03 (7-0)
2R - df. Christina Skoulida (GRE) by fall, 1:17 (6-0)
63 kg - Sakamoto, Eri
1R - df. Nadia Valkova (BUL) by fall, 4:00 (4-0)
2R - lost to Ewelina Pruszko (POL) by fall, 4:10 (0-5)
3R - lost to Sara McMann (USA) by TF, 3-13, 2:20
67 kg - Saito, Norie
1R - df. Galina Ivanova (BUL) by TF, 10-0, 5:18
2R - bye
3R - df. Sofia Kampanari (GRE) 4-0
72 kg - Hamaguchi, Kyoko
1R - df. Christine Nordhagen (CAN) by fall, 5:22 (3-1)
2R - df. Alexia Kourtelesi (GRE) by fall, 0:57 (3-0)
3R - bye
SF - df. Toccara Montgomery (USA) 4-3, 6:31
F1 - df. Maider Unda (ESP) 5-1