ASTANA, Kazakhstan (April 1) – Kyoko Hamaguchi won her third trip to the Olympic Games and Norikatsu Saikawa earned his first on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic Games qualifying tournament for Asia.
Hamaguchi, an Olympic bronze medalist in 2004 and 2008, notched a pair of first-period falls at Daulet Sports Arena to advance to the finals of the women’s 72kg category and to secure her ticket to the 2012 Games in London this summer.
In the final, Hamaguchi lost a seesaw battle with Beijing Olympic champion Wang Jiao (CHN). It was the first time since Hamaguchi and Wang have wrestled since the 2008 Games.
Hamaguchi’s triumph in the qualifier ensured that Japan will have a full slate of four wrestlers in women’s freestyle for the third straight Olympics, a perfect mark since the women’s events were introduced at the 2004 Athens Games.
In the final greco-roman events, newly minted national champion Saikawa defeated Asian Games bronze medalist An Chang-Gun (KOR) and 2009 Asia No. 2 Margulan Assembekov (KAZ) to open his challenge for an Olympic berth at 96kg.
In the semifinals, Saikawa eased past error-proned Azamat Erkinbaev (KGZ) to earn his trip to London. In the 96kg final, however, Saikawa lost to 2007 world bronze medalist Ghasem Golamreza Rezaei (IRI).
At 120kg, Hirokazu Shinjo and Ali Nadhim Salman Salman (IRQ) could not generate any offense on the feet and settled things in par terre with Shinjo losing in the third period when he could not turn the 2010 Asian Games bronze medalist.
During the three-day competition, Japan qualified two wrestlers — 55kg and 74kg — in men’s freestyle along with four qualifiers in greco-roman. Two more world qualification events are scheduled in April and May with Japan still hoping to qualify at 84kg, 96kg and 120kg in freestyle and 74kg, 84kg and 120kg in greco-roman.
96kg – SAIKAWA, Norikatsu (2nd, 10 entries)
R1 – df. An Chang-Gun (KOR), 2-0 (2-0, 3-0)
Scoreless on the feet in the first and second periods, Saikawa takes the first with a gut wrench, then steps over An’s gut wrench in the second for two points and gets a third point when a Korean challenge is overruled.
R2 – df. Margulan Assembekov (KAZ), 2-0 (2-0, 2-0)
Saikawa switches from the bottom in par terre for one point and gets another at the end of the first period for not letting Assembekov score. In the second, Saikawa scores with a gut wrench in par terre to secure the win.
SF – df. Azamat Erkinbaev (KGZ), 2-0 (4-0, 5-1)
Saikawa lands on top of an attempted drop in the first period and adds a pair of force-outs. Saikawa misses with one throw and connects for three points on another on his way to snaring a ticket to London.
F1 – lost to Ghasem Gholamreza Rezaei (IRI), 0-2 (0-1, 0-1)
Saikawa is pushed out midway through the first period and cannot convert in par terre in the second against the Beijing Olympian.
120kg – SHINJO, Hirokazu (8th, 9 entries)
R1 – bye
R2 – lost to Ali Nadhim Salman Salman (IRQ), 1-2 (0-1, 1-0, 0-1)
There is no scoring on the feet over three periods. Shinjo and his opponent trade defensive points in the first and second periods. In the third, with no offensive points on the board, the referee makes the draw and places Shinjo on top in par terre. Shinjo cannot convert and Salman takes the bout.
72kg – HAMAGUCHI, Kyoko (2nd, 7 entries)
R1 – df. Kang Han-Bit (KOR) by fall, 1P=1:57 (F3-0)
Hamaguchi opens with a tight defense, but gets caught in a front headlock with about 30 seconds remaining in the first period. She counters with arm-and-leg control and dumps Kang to her back for the fall.
SF – df. Ayimgul Allamuratova (UZB) by fall, 1P=0:26 (F3-0)
Hamaguchi runs over the young Uzbek’s low stance to start the match and quickly presses for the fall and a ticket to her third Olympic Games.
F1 – lost to Wang Jiao (CHN), 0-2 (2-5, 4-6)
Hamaguchi counters a takedown attempt for two points in the first period, but gives up a go-behind point and two gut wrenches. Hamaguchi steps over another gut wrench attempt in a second-period scramble, which officials score 2-5. After a Japanese challenge, the score is revised to 4-6 and the 2008 Olympic champ makes it stand for the win.