PARIS – Eighteen-year-old Haruna Okuno made a sparkling debut at wrestling’s world championships on Wednesday, winning gold in the women’s 55-kg division.
Okuno beat Nigeria’s Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye.
“Since making the Japan team I have been feeling like I have to win,” said Okuno. “I am glad I was able to capture the title. I was doing whatever I could to make leg tackles (in the final).”
Okuno is the second Japanese to win a gold medal at these championships after Kenichiro Fumita won the men’s Greco-Roman 59-kg division Tuesday, becoming the country’s first male wrestler in 34 years to be crowned world champion.
Making the most of her strong tackling, Okuno raced through her qualifying bouts, beating both her second- and third-round opponents by 8-0 scores. Her semifinal against Bulgaria’s Bilyana Zhivkova Dudova was ended by technical fall with Okuno leading 11-0.
Compatriot Hiroe Suzuki clinched bronze in the women’s 75-kg division, beating Estonia’s Epp Mae 6-0 in a third-place playoff.
“Every time I have appeared at the world championships I have wanted to win a medal and I have finally managed to achieve that,” said Suzuki.
“I lost in the third round but I was able to refocus to try and win the bronze.”
American Helen Maroulis, who denied Saori Yoshida a fourth straight Olympic title in the 53-kg final at last summer’s Rio Games, won the gold medal in the 58-kg class.