Wrestlers Takatani, Higuchi, Ota qualify for Rio Games


Sosuke Takatani, Rei Higuchi and Shinobu Ota all secured berths for this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics in men’s wrestling after advancing to the finals in the Asian qualifying tournament on Friday.

Takatani, second at the world championships in 2014, suffered right-knee ligament damage in February and entered the tournament with virtually no preparation. But the 26-year-old battled to defeat Uzbek Rashid Kurbanov 4-2 in the 74-kg freestyle semifinals to clinch his second straight Olympic berth.

“It was really tough. I had concerns with my knee and was battling against myself,” said a tearful Takatani. “I’m not wrestling to participate in the Olympics, but to win the gold there.”

Higuchi cruised to the 57-kg final with a 10-0 technical-fall win over India’s Rahul Balasaheb Aware as the 20-year-old won his first shot at the Olympics.

Ota overcame London Olympic gold medalist Hamid Mohammad Soryan of Iran 7-4 in the first round of the Greco-Roman 59-kg class en route to the final, and said his determination took him far.

“It was hard from the opening match, but I just believed I’ll be through if I can execute everything I’ve worked on,” said the 22-year-old. “I fought as the ace of the Japanese Greco-Roman wrestlers. At the end, it was my desire that made the difference.”