To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  TOKYO (October 5) - The Japan Wrestling Federation (JWF) announced that it plans to lodge a complaint with wrestling’s world governing body FILA over a head butt by Bulgaria’s Stanka Zlateva in the women’s 72-kg final at the recently concluded wrestling world championships.

   JWF executive director Yusaku Imaizumi told reporters that the federation would protest this kind of dangerous behavior and will issue a demand for stringent measures against this kind of wrestling to be put into place in the future. The JWF showed reporters a video of Zlateva head-butting Japan’s Kyoko Hamaguchi in the final match of the world championships, which concluded October 1 in Guangzhou, China. Hamaguchi reportedly had her nose broken in four places by the head butt.

   The JWF, which obtained the video from competition broadcaster Nihon Television, said it would send copies of the video to FILA and the Bulgarian wrestling federation. The action in question occurred moments after the start of second period in the final between Zlateva and Hamaguchi.

   Hamaguchi had taken the first period 3-1 and as the second period opened, Zlateva appeared on the video to aim her head at Hamaguchi’s nose, butting the former five-time world champion full-on in the face. While Imaizumi would not say that the action was “intentional,” it did not appear on the video that Zlateva was trying to attack the legs for a takedown and that the contact was accidental.

   Shortly after that, Zlateva appeared to be jumping for joy on the video. While not on the NTV video, another video from different angle also reportedly appeared to show the Bulgarian coaches smiling and laughing.

(Video of the head-butting incident, 37 seconds -- Click here)

   Before the championship final, Hamaguchi had won her first three matches of the competition by fall and in the semifinals defeated Ohenewa Akuffo 1-0, 1-0 to avenge a loss to the Canadian wrestler at the World Cup in May. In the final, Hamaguchi, seeking a sixth world championship title, appeared in good form in the first period, giving up the first point but rallying to come from behind for a 3-1 win.

   After the butting incident in the second period, the match was interrupted for about 10 seconds, but was re-started quickly with Hamaguchi not showing any sign of being intimidated. About 15 seconds later, however, the bleeding from Hamaguchi’snose became worse and again time was called to mop the blood from the mat.

   Hamaguchi was forced out of bounds twice in the period and Zlateva evened the match at one period apiece 1-2. Hamaguchi also lost the third period 0-6 and had to settle for the silver medal for a second year in a row. When asked if the head butt and bloody nose had any effect on the outcome of the match, Hamaguchi replied “Absolutely none.”

   Imaizumi stressed that “Hamaguchi has not protested or made any excuse at all for her loss. This is not a demand that the final places be reversed or Zlateva be disqualified and stripped of her medal.”

   “For the development of women’s wrestling, we want to request that firm action be taken against this kind of behavior in the future.” Imaizumi went on to explain the reasons behind the JWF’s actions: “After being butted Hamaguchi appeared unaffected, so everyone in the arena thought it wasn’t serious. But after learning how serious the injury was, however, we decided that we had to do something, we had to take whatever action we could.”

   Shigeo Kinase, JWF coach for women, delivered a message to the press conference from Hamaguchi. “I love wrestling. My injury in this last match was very painful and a very bitter experience for me. I do not want young boys and girls who aim to be wrestlers in the future to ever have this kind of experience. I am resting and relaxing now and hope that this injury will heal as quickly as possible. I further hope it will be an added incentive in the sport I love as I look ahead to the Beijing Olympics. I am very sorry that I have caused you all such concern.”

   Hamaguchi’s mother, Hatsue, told the reporters in place of her daughter “Wrestling is a wonderful, not dangerous sport. We must not allow this kind of violent behavior to be accepted.”