To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee


   BUDAPEST (September 28) - Hitomi Sakamoto roared back onto the international stage with three pins while claiming her first world championship title since 2001. Sakamoto pinned Vanessa Boubryemm of France in the women's 51-kg final at Papp Laszlo Arena in Budapest for her third world title overall as she remained unbeaten in three trips to the world meet.

(Photo), the world champion in 2000 and 2001, has missed much of the last four years, including last year's Athens Olympics, with knee surgery, rehabilitation and some other medical problems. The 24-year-old Aomori native, however, showed little mat rust as she scored falls in the first two rounds at 51 kg and then put on textbook displays of offensive wrestling in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Sakamoto eased past Wen Juling of China 2-0, 4-1 in the quarters and shut out Canada's Erica Sharp, a former world silver medalist herself, 3-0, 6-0 in the semis.

   Meanwhile, Sakamoto's younger sister Makiko could not solve the riddle of China's Ren Xuecheng and had to settle for a bronze medal at 48 kg. The younger Sakamoto, who lost to Ren in the final of this year's Asia championships, was beaten rather convincingly 1-1, 1-5 in the semifinals and nearly did not recover in time for her bronze medal match. Makiko struggled against Lilia Kaskarakova of Russia through the first two periods until some stern words from coach Kazuhito Sakae lit a fire that propelled her to a 7-0 win in the third period.

   In the 48-kg final, Asia champion Ren caught Ukraine's Irina Merlini in the middle of an arm-spin throw and dropped the Olympic gold medalist to her back for the fall.

   Japan's final entry in the men's freestyle competition Akihito Tanaka could not get past the 120-kg preliminaries where he lost to Mongolian Olympic team member Tuvinshintur Enkhtuya. In the heavyweight final, Olympic bronze medalist Aydin Polatci of Turkey defeated 1998 world champion Alex Rodriguez of Cuba 0-1, 2-0, 1-0 for the gold medal.

Hungary's Otto Aubeli and American Tolly Thompson took the bronze medals. The men's team title in freestyle went to Russia with four champions and 54 points. Cuba was second with three silvers and 39 points with Georgia third on 33 points.

Japan, with six points, tied for 20th out of 85 countries competing.

Results of Japanese entries:

Women 48 kg - SAKAMOTO, Makiko (3rd,26 entries)

Q - df. Anne Catherine Deluntsch (FRA), 2-1 (2-1, 1-1x, 5-0)
Makiko waits until the third period to get rolling, scoring a pair of go-behind takedowns and a gut wrench for the win.

R1 - df. Sigrun Dobner (GER) by fall, 2P=0:56
Makiko wins the game of cat-and-mouse in the first period 2-0. She opens the second period with a quick takedown and moves to a bar arm to drive the 2003 junior world silver medalist over for the pin.

QF - df. Jenny Wong (USA), 2-0 (6-0, 6-2)
Makiko scores with double-leg takedown and adds nearfall points with a bar arm and body press in the first period. Makiko stays with the double-leg attack in the second period and scores again with the bar arm.

SF - lost to Ren Xuecheng (CHN), 0-2 (1-1x, 1-5)
Makiko opens the scoring with a low sweep single, but gives up a go-behind in the final five seconds to drop the first period. Ren drags behind Makiko midway through the second period and then breaks the match open with a tight gut wrench.

F3 - df. Lilia Kaskarakova (RUS), 2-1 (0-1, 1-0, 7-0=0:45)
Slow start for Makiko against an opponent she has already beaten twice this year. Kaskarakova scores out of the clinch for the first period and Makiko takes the second with a double-leg. Makiko picks up the pace in the third period and converts on a missed throw by Kaskarakova with three gut wrenches for the bronze medal.
Women 51 kg - SAKAMOTO, Hitomi (1st, 22 entries)

Q - df. Livanis Rivera (PUR) by fall, 1P=1:31
Hitomi scores two early takedowns and then walks Rivera over for the fall.

R1 - df. Dinara Mirzaeva (UZB) by fall, 2P=0:43
Hitomi has Mirzaeva wrapped up for the fall as time runs out in the first period. She opens the second period with a quick takedown and then drives the up-and-coming Uzbek wrestler over for the pin.

QF - df. Wen Juling (CHN), 2-0 (2-0, 4-1)
Hitomi fashions a one-sided win against a defensive opponent. A pair of takedowns in the first period and a tilt to close out the second punctuate the victory.

SF - df. Erica Sharp (CAN), 2-0 (3-0, 6-0)
Hitomi puts on an exhibition of offensive wrestling with single- and double-leg attacks, snaps and an ankle-lace for good measure.

F1 - df. Vanessa Boubryemm (FRA) by fall, 1P=1:33
Hitomi scores a double-leg takedown in the first 10 seconds but the young French woman is determined not to be turned. On their feet again, Hitomi hits another double-leg and quickly moves to a body press for the fall.
Freestyle 120 kg - TANAKA, Akihito (16th, 27 entries)

Q - lost to Tuvinshintur Enkhtuya (MGL), 1-2 (1-1x, 3-0, 1-2)
Tanaka takes the lead in the first period with a low single and makes it stand until the final second when Tuvinshintur shoves him out of bounds for the period win. Tanaka gets back into the match with a fireman's carry in the second period, but a bad shot in the third period gives the Mongolian the win. Tuvinshintur later loses to 2004 Asia champion Favdin Masoumi of Iran, ending Tanaka's hopes of wrestling for a bronze medal in the repechage bracket.