BUDAPEST – Yui Susaki and Haruna Okuno captured gold medals for the second straight year at the World Wrestling Championships on Thursday, but both 19-year-old Olympic hopefuls did it in different weight classes from last year.
In addition to Susaki’s gold in the women’s 50-kg class and Okuno’s at 53 kg, Yukako Kawai, the younger sister of 59-kg gold medalist Risako Kawai, took silver at 62 kg. Mayu Mukaida triumphed in the 55-kg division on Tuesday, making it four women’s gold for Japan in Hungary.
The women’s weight classes were expanded from eight to 10 this year and there will be six in women’s freestyle at the 2020 Olympics. Japan also won four women’s gold at the 2017 Paris worlds but did not win any titles at this summer’s Asian Games in Jakarta.
In the 50-kg final at Papp Laszlo Arena, Susaki, the 48-kg champion in 2017, defeated Rio Olympic silver medalist Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan 11-0 by technical fall, wrapping up a dominant week where she picked up four wins without surrendering a point.
“I’ve experienced disappointment, so this gold medal means more than last year’s,” said Susaki, referring to her semifinal exit at the national championships last December.
“I knew it would be a tough match but I wanted a gold medal so bad. I’m going to get even stronger and carry my momentum into the (2020) Tokyo Olympics.”
In the 53-kg gold-medal bout, Okuno, the 55-kg champion last year, fought with a bandaged elbow and cruised to a 10-0 technical fall over American Sarah Ann Hildebrandt.
Okuno, who injured her left elbow in Wednesday’s contest, said after her victory over the top-seeded Hildebrandt that she was fighting with pain but felt she needed to overcome the fear she has been feeling ever since she finished with a disappointing bronze at the Asian Games.
“I promised myself I would win and overcome my pre-fight nerves. I was worried about my left elbow but I was able to go aggressively,” Okuno said.
In the 62-kg final, Kawai was denied Japan’s third gold of the day by Taybe Mustafa Yusein of Bulgaria when she lost 6-2 in the final. Kawai scored two points on a takedown in the final seconds to avoid a shutout.