• staff report


Japan’s Risako Kawai won gold Thursday by beating Belarus’s Iryna Kurachkina 5-0 in the women’s 57 kg freestyle wrestling final at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 26-year-old Kawai, freestyle champion at 63 kg at the 2016 Rio Games, became the third Japanese female wrestler to win back-to-back Olympic titles, following Kaori Icho, who won four straight titles, and Saori Yoshida, who won three consecutive gold medals.

On Wednesday, Kawai’s younger sister, 23-year-old Yukako, won the women’s 62 kg title, making them the first Japanese sisters to have both won Olympic gold medals.

“I have to ask myself if it is okay to have such a great day,” Risako Kawai said about winning gold a day after her sister. “I have struggled with various feelings for a long time. If I said there was no pressure (to defend the title) that would be a lie.”

In the final, Kawai took an early 2-0 lead in the first period and added three additional technical points in the second stanza, warding off Kurachkina’s fierce attack on her legs as the clock counted down at Makuhari Messe Hall.

“Compared with the Rio Games, every match I had felt really heavy. But I believed that that pressure would help. … I have to become the type of wrestler who can withstand the pressure and I fought it out till the end.”

American Helen Maroulis, who denied Yoshida a fourth consecutive title at the Rio Games by winning gold at 53 kg, routed Khongorzul Boldsaikhan of Mongolia 11-0 for a bronze along with Evelina Nikolova of Bulgaria, who downed Russian Valeria Koblova 5-0.

Earlier, 24-year-old Mayu Mukaida, the 2018 world champion at 55 kg, booked a spot in the 53 kg final in her first Olympics with a 6-3 win over Mongolian Bolortuya Bat Ochir, a 2019 bronze medalist at 55 kg, and will face China’s Pang Qianyu in Friday’s final.

In men’s freestyle, Russian Zavur Uguev, the 2019 world champion, downed Kumar Ravi of India, in the 57 kg final, giving the 26-year-old his first Olympic gold. Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan and Patrick Gilman of the United States won bronze medals at 57 kg.

At 86 kg, American David Taylor had a stunning 4-3 come-from-behind final win over Iran’s Hassan Yazdani, the Rio Games champion at 74 kg, with the 2018 world champion tackling the legs of his opponent to snatch the gold in the dying seconds of the bout.

Russian Artur Naifonov claimed a bronze, as did Myles Amine of San Marino, winning his country’s first Olympic wrestling medal.

Earlier at 74 kg, Keisuke Otoguru was eliminated when he lost by fall to Daniyar Kaisanov of Kazakhstan in his first match. Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus reached Friday’s 74 kg final clash against Russian Zaurbek Sidakov.

At 125 kg, American Gable Steveson broke his way into the final, where he will face Georgian Geno Petriashvili, a bronze medalist in the weight class at the Rio Games.

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