Yoshida makes short work of title hopefuls

Kyodo News

Seven-time world champion Saori Yoshida successfully defended her eighth consecutive title in dominant fashion at 55 kilograms at the wrestling national championships on Wednesday.

Yoshida won all three of her matches at Yoyogi national gymnasium annex by fall in the meet, which doubled as a qualifier for next September’s world championships in Moscow.

She finished off all of her would-be opponents in less than one minute and the two-time Olympic champion never showed any signs of pain of having a stress fracture in her right wrist, which was detected earlier this month.

“Next year I want to have victories at the world championships and Asian Games as I shoot for a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics,” Yoshida said.

Beijing Olympic champion Kaori Icho, meanwhile, made a dramatic comeback to the mats after an extended break, winning her seventh overall title and first in two years at 63 kg.

Icho came from behind to beat former world champion Seiko Yamamoto 2-1 in the semifinals and downed two-time world champion Mio Nishimaki 2-0 in the final after escaping her opponent’s clinch.

Nishimaki had advantage in the clinch after the pair tied 0-0 at the end of the second period, but Icho held her balance despite her opponent lifting up one of her legs before wrapping around to score a point.

“Mio has good speed and techniques. If you make one mistake on offense, she’ll make you pay for it. If I lost, people would say that I’ve gotten weak,” said Icho, who recently returned from a months-long study abroad in Canada along with her sister Chiharu.

The 29-year-old Yamamoto, who came out of retirement this year after giving birth to a child, took the first period, only for Icho to tackle her at the end of the second and third.

Chiharu, a two-time Olympic silver medalist at 48 kg, lost in the 51-kg final to world bronze medalist Yuri Kai on Tuesday.

Kyoko Hamaguchi, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist, won her first crown at 72 kg in two years to extend her title count to 13.

In Greco-Roman, Kohei Hasegawa captured his third straight title at 55 kg, while Kazuhiko Ikematsu emerged the winner in the men’s 66-kg freestyle for the first time in two years.