With the easing of coronavirus restrictions on visitors to Japan, French and German wrestlers were welcomed to the women’s national team camp held Nov. 7-12 in Kasumi, Ibaraki Prefecture. Among the about 25 Japanese in attendance were Yui SUSAKI, who last month completed the “Grand Slam” of all four world age-group and Olympics titles, as well as fellow Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Yukako KAWAI.
Prior to last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, a large number of countries, including the United States, made their final preparations by training in designated host towns around Japan. But in terms of being invited to a training camp by a national team, it marked the first time since May 2018, when seven wrestlers from Poland participated in a women’s team camp in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.
For the Japan Wrestling Federation, it was the first international exchange it had sanctioned since a Japan-Korea high school invitational tournament in November 2019 in Wakayama.
The recent camp in Kasumi was part of a federation strategy to enhance performance leading up to the 2024 Paris Olympics, most notably among the heavier weights where Japan has been trailing the world. For that reason, the foreign wrestlers who were specially invited are from the upper weights — women’s 65kg bronze medalist Koumba LARROQUE of France, who has won world titles on the U17, U20 and U23 levels, and German world team member Francy RAEDELT at 76kg, as well as a male German coach.
The federation has announced criteria for selecting Japan’s squad for the 2024 Paris Olympics, as well as the 2023 World Championships which will serve as the first qualifying tournament for Paris.
— In weight classes in which Japan secures an Olympic spot at the World Championships
1) If the wrestler who secures the Olympic spot at the World Championships wins a medal there, that wrestler will automatically fill the Olympic spot.
2) If a wrestler secures an Olympic spot at the World Championships but does not win a medal (i.e. places 5th), that wrestler will fill the Olympic spot by winning the title at the 2023 Emperor’s Cup All-Japan Championships.
3) If the wrestler in 2) does not win the title at the Emperor’s Cup, then a playoff between that wrestler and the winner of the Emperor’s Cup will be held at a later date for the Olympic spot. The playoff will held within one month of the Emperor’s Cup, with no weight allowances.
— In weight classes in which Japan does not secure an Olympic spot at the World Championships
1) The winner at the 2023 Emperor’s Cup All-Japan Championships will be dispatched to the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament and, if necessary, the final world Olympic qualifying tournament.
2) If the wrestler in 1) is unable to participate in the Olympic qualifying tournaments due to injury, the second-place finisher will be dispatched in their place.
3) If the second-place finisher at the Emperor’s Cup secures an Olympic spot at one of the qualifying tournaments, a playoff between that wrestler and the Emperor’s Cup winner will be held for the Olympic spot. There will be no weight allowance for the playoff.
Here are the selection rules for 2023 World Championships:
–In Olympic weight classes
1) If a wrestler wins titles at both the 2022 Emperor’s Cup All-Japan Championships and 2023 Meiji Cup All-Japan Invitational Championships, that wrestler will automatically secure a spot on the team to the World Championships.
2) If there are different winners at the 2022 Emperor’s Cup and 2023 Meiji Cup, a playoff between the two will be held later for the spot on the team to the World Championships.
3) For the playoff:
1. The wrestler can only compete in the weight class in which they were entered at the 2023 Meiji Cup.
2. It will be held the same day as the All-Japan Shakaijin (Non-Student) Championships.
3. No weight allowances.
4) For alternates:
1. If one wrestler wins titles at both the 2022 Emperor’s Cup and 2023 Meiji Cup, the alternate will be the second-place finisher at the 2023 Meiji Cup.
2. If there are different winners at the 2022 Emperor’s Cup and 2023 Meiji Cup, the alternate will be the loser of the playoff between the two.
–In non-Olympic weight classes
1) Playoffs will be held to determine spots on the team to the World Championships.
2) Those eligible for the playoffs will be:
1. Winners of the respective weight classes at the 2022 Emperor’s Cup.
2. Winners of the respective weight classes at the 2023 Meiji Cup.
3. Wrestlers who finish second in an Olympic weight class at either the 2022 Emperor’s Cup or 2023 Meiji Cup.
3) The playoffs will be held about two weeks after the 2023 Meiji Cup, with no weight allowances.
The federation has announced the following teams for the World Cups in men’s freestyle and women’s wrestling, to be held concurrently in Coralville, Iowa, in the United States on Dec. 10-11.
Because the events will be held less than two weeks before the Emperor’s Cup All-Japan Championships, which will be held Dec. 22-25 and is serving as the start of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the vast majority of top wrestlers withdrew from consideration for being selected.
Still, the women’s team will be aiming for its sixth straight championship dating back to 2014 (the event was not held in 2016, 2020 and 2021). Led by Moe KIYOOKA, who this year won both the world U20 and U23 titles at 55kg, the 10-women squad includes seven collegians.
The men’s freestyle team, which will be appearing for the third straight time, also features a young squad. It will be led by world senior team member Takashi ISHIGURO at 97kg and world U23 champion Tatsuya SHIRAI at 86kg.
Here are the teams:
50kg – Hanano SAKURAI (Ikuei Univ.)
53kg – Rino KATAOKA (Waseda Univ.)
55kg – Moe KIYOOKA (Ikuei Univ.)
57kg – Ruka NATAMI (Shigakkan Univ.)
59kg – Himeka TOKUHARA (Self-Defense Forces)
62kg – Yui SAKANO (Tokyo Metropolitan Police)
65kg – Miyu IMAI (Self-Defense Forces)
68kg – Kumi KOBAYASHI (Fukuoka Univ.)
68kg – Yuka FUJIKURA (Ikuei Univ.)
76kg – Nodoka YAMAMOTO (Shigakkan Univ.)
57kg – Taichi YAMAGUCHI (Waseda Univ.)
61kg – Kaito MORIKAWA (Takushoku Univ.)
65kg – Ryoma ANRAKU (Nobitel)
70kg – Keitaro ONO (Nippon Sport Sciences Univ.)
74kg – Kirin KINOSHITA (Cleanup)
79kg – Yajiro YAMASAKI (Saisan)
86kg – Tatsuya SHIRAI (Nippon Sport Sciences Univ.)
92kg – Sotoshi MIURA (New Japan Pro Wrestling)
97kg – Takahashi ISHIGURO (Fuji Seiki)
–Translation by Ken Marantz