To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world

By William May
iJapan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee


TOKYO (April 6) - Saori Yoshida recorded three straight falls to win her seventh straight title at the Japanese womenfs national championships meet and was awarded the Japan Beverage Cup as the competitionfs most outstanding wrestler. Eager to make a strong showing on Japanese mats after having her winning streak of 119 snapped in January, Yoshida needed slightly over 2 minutes to pin all three opponents at 55 kg, including rival Chikako Matsukawa, at Komazawa Gymnasium.

gIt feels good to get the pins,h said the reigning Olympic and world champ. Yoshida, undefeated in her international career since her debut in 1996, was stunned with a loss at the womenfs World Cup meet in January but quickly rebounded in March with a victory at the Asia championships in Korea.

gThe winning streak was halted at the World Cup, but it pointed out where I was coming up short,h Yoshida said. gWe have four months to Beijing now, so I just have to keep my focus on training.h Meanwhile, Japanfs other world and Olympic champion Kaori Icho prevailed at 63 kg for a seventh year in a row and her eighth title overall in the competition formerly known as the Japan Queenfs Cup.

Japanfs other two entries to this summerfs Olympic Games in Beijing, Chiharu Icho (48 kg) and Kyoko Hamaguchi (72 kg) chose to sit out the competition in order to nurse some troublesome injuries.

In their place, Makiko Sakamoto won her fourth title at 48 kg and Hiroe Suzuki, touted as a likely successor to Hamaguchi at 72 kg, won her first championship. The meet also served as a qualification competition for the womenfs world championships in Tokyo this fall after the Olympics. A separate world championships is being organized for the women since only four of the seven female weight categories will be contested in Beijing.

At the three non-Olympic weights, world champion Hitomi Sakamoto won her fifth title at 51 kg and up-and-coming Mio Nishimaki won her first crown at 67 kg. Sakamoto and Nishimaki, who also won at the All-Japan championships in December, were named to Japanfs world team for October. At 59 kg, former world champion Ayako Shoda regained the top spot and will face All-Japan champion Mizuka Kajita in a world team wrestle-off later this summer.

Results of semifinal and championship final bouts:

48 kg (16 entries)
F1 - Makiko Sakamoto df. Fuyuko Mimura, 2-1 (0-3=2:02, 2-1, 2-0)
SF - Sakamoto df. Nami Uchida by fall, 1P=1:14 (4-0)
SF - Mimura df. Chihiro Nakano by fall, 1P=1:07 (3-0)

51 kg (12 entires)
F1 - Hitomi Sakamoto df. Yu Horiuchi, 2-0 (2-1, 3-0)
SF - Sakamoto df. Ayaka Kurumaya by fall, 1P=0:56 (4-0)
SF - Horiuchi df. Yuri Kai, 2-0 (1-0, 1-0)

55 kg (14 entries)
F1 - Saori Yoshida df. Chikako Matsukawa by fall, 1P=1:08 (4-0)
SF - Yoshida df. Yuka Tobe by fall, 1:03 (7-0)
SF - Matsukawa df. Mizuho Shibata, 21 (1-2, 2-1, 3-1)

59 kg (13 entries)
F1 - Ayako Shoda df. Kei Yamana, 2-1 (5-1, 0-3=2:05, 3-0)
SF - Shoda df. Ayaka Sato by fall, 2P=0:55 (2-0, 4-0)
SF - Yamana df. Eriko Nakata, 2-1 (1-0, 2-1, 1-0)

63 kg (7 entries)
F1 - Kaori Icho df. Kayoko Kudo by fall, 1P=0:53 (4-0)
SF - Icho df. Shiho Tatemitsu by fall, 1P=1:09 (6-0)
SF - Kudo df. Erika Matsukawa, 2-0 (3-0, 3-1)

67 kg (5 entries)
F1 - Mio Nishimaki df. Mami Shinkai, 2-0 (1-0, 2-0)
SF - Nishimaki df. Chiaki Iijima by fall, 2P=0:24 (3-0, 6-0)
SF - Shinkai df. Asuka Sano, 2-0 (2-1, 1-0)

72 kg (5 entries)
F1 - Hiroe Suzuki df. Kie Tanaka, 2-1 (0-2, 1-0, 2-0)
SF - Suzuki df. Yuka Masuo by fall, 1P=0:28 (6-0)
SF - Tanaka df. Chiaki Machida by fall, 1P=1:47 (5-0)