BUDAPEST – Olympic champion Saori Yoshida won her 11th consecutive title at the world championships in Budapest on Thursday as Japanese women underlined their domination of freestyle wrestling.
The 29-year-old Yoshida comfortably defeated Sofia Mattson in the 55-kg final, while Kaori Icho won her eighth world title and first in two years with victory over Soronzonbold Battsetseg of Mongolia in the 63-kg division.
Yoshida has won a combined total of 14 Olympic and world titles in the 55-km class, one more than Russian legend Alexander Karelin, who earned three Olympic gold medals and nine world championships in the men’s 130-kg class between 1988 and 1999.
“Once I decided to compete (at the worlds), I was able to reset my mind and I think that led to a good result,” said Yoshida. “It was my first meeting (against Mattson) and I think we both wrestled cautiously. I wanted to win by technical fall at the end but could not keep attacking.”
“This is the greatest feeling. Since the London Olympics, I have been so busy,” she said.
Yoshida won the People’s Honor Award last year and played a role in Tokyo’s successful bid to win the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Buenos Aries earlier this month.
Wrestling, which was dropped from the Olympics list of core sports in February, regained its spot on Sept. 8, beating out a combined baseball-softball bid and squash for inclusion at Tokyo 2020.
“Tokyo has won the Olympics and wrestling is staying on the menu and I am happy that after all that I was able to win. It has been a fantastic year,” said Yoshida.
Icho won all four of her matches by technical fall.
“In general, I was slow on the attack and the biggest gain for me was winning three points in the semifinal,” she said.