To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world

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


TOKYO (April 14) - Kyoko Hamaguchi
(right)won her 11th Japan Queen’s Cup crown and ensured that she and her three Athens Olympic teammates will be going to the 2007 world championships in September.

Along with Hamaguchi at 72 kg, Chiharu Icho (48), Saori Yoshida (55) and Kaori Icho (63) qualified for the September 17-23 world meet in Baku, Azerbaijan by virtue of their back-to-back triumphs at the national championships in January and at the Japan Queens Cup. Yoshida and the Icho sisters are all reigning world champions and will be looking to Baku as a springboard to the 2008 Olympics -- since the 2007 world meet is also serving as the first qualification tourney for the Beijing Games.

Hamaguchi, meanwhile, a five-time world champion who has had to settle for silver medals in 2005 and 2006 and a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics, will be looking to return to the top of the podium. In the 72-kg final, Hamaguchi showed a more tactical style of wrestling against Asuka Sano, defeating the converted judoka 2-0, 1-0 at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo. Instead of relying on her straight-ahead style to overpower opponents, Hamaguchi showed a varied attack on the feet and on the mat as she explained later that she has been working on single-leg attacks and a gut wrench.

At 63 kg, Kaori Icho
(left) turned away the challenge of 59-kg world champion Ayako Shoda 1-0, 3-0 and then tearfully thanked her opponent for making her the wrestler she has become. “Shoda-san has always helped me at the national team training camps and because she has been there I have been able to get this far,” the four-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist said.

Perhaps the most widely anticipated JQC match-up at 55 kg between world champions Saori Yoshida and Hitomi Sakamoto did not materialize. The 51-kg world champ Sakamoto, expected to challenge Yoshida for the 55-kg berth, fell to Asia champion Chikako Matsukawa 7-2, 0-2, 3-1 in the semifinals.

(right), then, dismantled Matsukawa 2-0, 8-0 in a one-sided final. “Personally, I was only concerned about winning no matter who I had to face in the final,” Yoshida said, adding that she hoped to continue extending her winning streak (currently at 106) through the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Although Shoda and Sakamoto lost in their bids for the world team -- and along with that very likely a berth on the 2008 Olympic squad -- the Japan Wrestling Federation offered them both a chance to defend their world titles
at 59 kg and 51 kg, respectively, in Baku.

At 48 kg, Chiharu Icho
(left) dropped a period in the semifinals to former junior world champ Sachiko Akasaka, but had no other problems as she took a controlled 2-0, 1-0 win from rival Makiko Sakamoto in the finals. “We’re getting closer to the Olympics and it reminds me of the silver medal from Athens,” Icho said, adding that her goal in Beijing will be the gold.

At the “non-Olympic” weight categories, national champions Ninako Hattori (51) and Mio Nishimaki (59) sat out the competition as Mizuho Shibata and Kei Yamana each claimed their first JQC titles. If Hitomi Sakamoto and Ayako Shoda turn down the JWF offers to wrestle in Baku, a special wrestle-off for the world team slots will be held on June 10.

Also at 67 kg, recently crowned national champ Yoshiko Inoue fell in the semifinals 1-0, 3-0 to Hiroe Suzuki as the title went to Mami Shinkai with a 1-0, 2-0 triumph in the championship match. Shinkai, who defeated 2006 world bronze medalist Eri Sakamoto in the semifinals, will face Inoue in a national team wrestle-off match on June 10.

Results from the championship and semifinal matches:
48 kg (16 entries)
F1 - Chiharu Icho df. Makiko Sakamoto, 2-0 (2-0=2:06, 1-0)
SF - Icho df. Sachiko Akasaka, 2-1 (1-0=2:18, 0-1, 2-0)
SF - Sakamoto df. Fuyuko Mimura by fall, 2P=1:32 (7-0=1:23, 4-0)

51 kg (10 entries)
F1 - Mizuho Shibata df. Yuri Kai, 2-1 (1-0, 0-3, 1-0)
SF - Kai df. Yu Sekine, 2-1 (2-0, 0-1, 1-0)
SF - Shibata df. Ai Shimizu, 2-0 (1-0, 3-0)

55 kg (10 entries)
F1 - Saori Yoshida df. Chikako Matsukawa, 2-0 (2-0, 8-0)
SF - Yoshida df. Ayaka Kurumaya by fall, 1P=0:27 (7-0)
SF - Matsukawa df. Hitomi Sakamoto, 2-1 (7-2, 0-2, 3-1)

59 kg (9 entries)
F1 - Kei Yamana df. Kayoko Shimada by fall, 1P=1:49 (3-0)
SF - Yamana df. Takako Saito, 2-0 (1-0, 6-0=0:35)
SF - Shimada df. Mizuka Kajita, 2-0 (3-0=2:03, 4-0)

63 kg (7 entries)
F1 - Kaori Icho df. Ayako Shoda, 2-0 (1-0, 3-0)
SF - Icho df. Saori Watanabe, 2-0 (7-0=1:13, 7-0=0:22)
SF - Shoda df. Erika Matsukawa, 2-0 (5-0, 2-0)

67 kg (6 entries)
F1 - Mami Shinkai df. Hiroe Suzuki, 2-0 (1-0, 2-0)
SF - Suzuki df. Yoshiko Inoue, 2-0 (1-0=2:05, 3-0)
SF - Shinkai df. Eri Sakamoto, 2-1 (1-0, 0-1, 2-1)

72 kg (6 entries)
F1 - Kyoko Hamaguchi df. Asuka Sano, 2-0 (2-0, 1-0)
SF - Hamaguchi df. Chiaki Machida by fall, 1P=0:21 (5-0)
SF - Sano df. Kie Tanaka by fall, 1P=1:05 (6-0)