TOKYO (December 23) – Two-time Olympic gold medalists Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho punched their tickets for the London 2012 Games with victories on the final day of the All-Japan national wrestling championships.
Yoshida edged junior world champ Kanako Murata, 2-0 (2-2, 1-0), in the 55kg final at Yoyogi National Gymnasium for her 10th straight All-Japan triumph, while Icho pinned Rio Watari in the 63kg championship bout for her third straight and ninth overall title.
The victories ensured Yoshida and Icho a berth in the London Games, where they will trying for a rare third straight Olympic wrestling gold medal.
"I don't know what to say about today's final. I wasn't feeling like myself," Yoshida said after her narrow escape from the 18-year-old Murata. "I know that I have to lower my stance a bit and add some strength. But, despite the challenges, I will do my best to win a third gold medal in London."
Meanwhile, Icho remarked after her final that she was "relieved" to have the championships behind her, adding that the tournament made her realize that she needs more practice.
"The semifinal with (four-time world champ) Seiko Yamamoto was a surprise because I thought she would attack more," said Icho. "Luckily, I had practiced for this and was able to go after the points I needed."
Also in women's wrestling, Kyoko Hamaguchi edged world bronze medalist at 67kg Yoshiko Inoue in the semifinals and stopped former world silver medalist Mami Shinkai for the 72kg title.
Hamaguchi's win was an unprecedented 15th in the All-Japan meet and moves her ahead of greco-roman ironman Yasutoshi Moriyama for most All-Japan titles. Moriyama won 14 titles between 1982 and 1995 at 82kg and 90kg.
In men's freestyle, world bronze medalist Kenichi Yumoto was upset by Asian Games silver medalist Hiroyuki Oda in the quarterfinals at 60kg, leaving the door open for 2009 world team member Shogo Maeda to take the All-Japan crown. The triumph also gives Maeda a claim to the ticket to London.
A special wrestle-off for contested Olympic berths has been scheduled by the Japan Wrestling Federation for next March with as many as six wrestlers per category allowed to vie for the honor. JWF officials plan to discuss the details of the wrestle-off in late December.
At 74kg, Sosuke Takatani, winner of the collegiate open and national championship crowns the last three years, won his first All-Japan title.
In greco-roman, Asian Games bronze medalist Tsutomu Fujimura was his second title at 66kg while Masayuki Amano became the first wrestler in 30 years from Chuo University to win an All-Japan crown when he upset defending champion Taichi Oka at 84kg.
Results of championship final and semifinal bouts:
66kg (19 entries)
F1 – Tsutomu Fujimura df. Fumiya Itakura, 2-0 (8-0=1:26, 1-0)
SF – Fujimura df. Tomohiro Inoue, 2-0 (3-0, 2-1)
SF – Itakura df. Takuya Tomizuka, 2-0 (7-0=1:41, 4-2)
84kg (14 entries)
F1 – Masayuki Amano df. Taichi Oka, 2-0 (3-0, 5-0)
SF – Oka df. Ryo Ito, 2-1 (4-5, 1-0, 2-0)
SF – Amano df. Shinnosuke Omagari, 2-0 (4-0, 1-0)
60kg (15 entries)
F1 – Shogo Maeda df. Tomotsugu Ishida,2-0 (1-0, 1-0=2:04)
SF – Maeda df. Hiroyuki Oda, 2-0 (3-0, 7-0=1:58)
SF – Ishida df. Noriyuki Takazuka, 2-1 (0-1=2:03, 1-0=2:04, 1-0=2:09)
74kg (17 entries)
F1 – Sosuke Takatani df. Takafumi Kojima, 2-0 (2-0=2:06, 2-0=2:28)
SF – Kojima df. Futoshi Yokoyama, 2-0 (1-0, 1-0)
SF – Takatani df. Takaki Yamana, 2-0 (7-0=1:05, 6-0=1:02)
55kg (15 entries)
F1 – Saori Yoshida df. Kanako Murata, 2-0 (2x-2=big, 1-0)
SF – Yoshida df. Chikako Matsukawa, 2-0 (2-0, 2-0)
SF – Murata df. Kei Yamana, 2-0 (3-1, 6-0=0:39)
63kg (12 entries)
F1 – Kaori Icho df. Rio Watari by fall, 1P=1:59 (F5-0)
SF – Icho df. Seiko Yamamoto, 2-0 (2-0, 3-0)
SF – Watari df. Kayoko Kudo, 2-0 (1-0, 5-0)
72kg (5 entries)
F1 – Kyoko Hamaguchi df. Mami Shinkai, 2-0 (3-0, 1-0)
SF – Hamaguchi df. Yoshiko Inoue, 2-0 (1x-1=last, 2-0)
SF – Shinkai df. Hiroe Suzuki, 2-1 (1-0, 0-4, 3-1)