Yoshida ready to defend wrestling title


Staff Writer

Two-time defending gold medalist Saori Yoshida will be seeking another Olympic title when the women’s 55-kg freestyle wrestling competition is staged on Thursday at Excel Arena.

Canadian Tonya Verbeek is one of the top grapplers in the field, having earned a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games and a bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Yoshida is a nine-time world champion and one of two Japanese females with two consecutive Olympic gold medals in wrestling competing in London; 63-kg standout Kaori Icho, 28, competed in the tournament on Wednesday.

For Yoshida, a 119-match win streak that was stopped in January 2008 grabbed headlines. She recovered — in a big way — to defend her Olympic gold.

Back in the quadrennial spotlight on Thursday, the Mie Prefecture native must win four times to claim gold.

“I aim to three-peat in London,” Yoshida famously told reporters in Beijing after her successful title defense.

Now it all boils to this: Four years of total dedication will be tested in a five-hour competition against the world’s best.

Yoshida aims to prove she remains the best in the world. Thursday will determine 2012’s answer to that question.