To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  TOKYO (June 23) - Former world champion Hitomi Sakamoto edged 2003 world champ Chiharu Icho 2-1 in a special national team wrestle-off at 51 kg to book her ticket for the world championships in Budapest this fall. Sakamoto, world champion in 2000 and 2001, battled Icho even over the first six minutes -- 1-0, 0-1, 0-0 -- and then took advantage of the overtime clinch to force the Olympic silver medalist out of the circle for the win.

  ・Today's win made me happier than either of my world titles,・said Sakamoto, who was FILA's female wrestler of the year in 2000. ・The match developed as I thought it might. And, when I heard Chiharu breathing heavy in the second half of the match, I thought then I could win.・Sakamoto added. ・I practiced wrestling from the clinch a lot and that was the key today.・

  The women's wrestle-offs were held at the men's Meiji Nyugyo Cup invitational meet and rounded out Japan's line-up for the September 26-October 2 world championships. Also at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Eri Sakamoto defeated veteran
national team member Norie Saito in the 67-kg wrestle-off to become the third member of the Sakamoto family on the Japanese team.

  Eri is a cousin of Hitomi and Maki Sakamoto (48 kg). In a third wrestle-off that had been scheduled, 1999 world champion Ayako Shoda returned the national team for the first time in six years by default over challenger Hatsumi Nakanishi.

National team wrestle-off results:

51 kg
Hitomi Sakamoto df. Chiharu Icho, 2-1 (1-0, 0-1, 1-0=2:05)

59 kg
Ayako Shoda df. Hatsumi Nakanishi by default

67 kg
Eri Sakamoto df. Norie Saito, 2-0 (1-0, 3-1)