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Olympic preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 48 kg/105.5 lbs.

Jason Bryant

Date of Competition: August 8

The name has changed, but the results haven’t.

Hitomi Obara won her eighth senior-level World Championship last year. Formerly known as Sakamoto, Obara’s move down to 48kg /105.5 lbs. hasn’t slowed her pace.

Obara should come into the London Games as a heavy favorite. She’s won two straight world championships at 48 kg and is hoping to give Japan its first Olympic gold at the weight class. In 2004 and 2008, Chiharu Icho finished with the silver medal.

The field also includes both previous Olympic champions, Irini Merlini of the Ukraine and Carol Huynh of Canada. Past world champions Maria Stadnyk of Azerbaijan and Clarssia Chun of the United States also pepper the field of 18 qualified nations.

Stadnyk and Merleni both finished with bronze medals in 2008 and Stadnyk won the World Championship the next year in Denmark.

Other previous World medalists expected to compete are both 2011 bronze medalists Jyldyz Eshimova of Kazakhstan and Shasha Zhao of China, 2007 bronze medalist Mayelis Caripa Castillo of Venezuela, 2006 World bronze medalist Iwona Matkowska.

Most notably missing from the list of 2012 qualifying countries is Russia, where Lorissa Oorzak is a two-time silver medalist at the World level. While Russia’s not in the mix, the Pan American countries qualified five wrestlers, including Huyhn, Caripa Castillo, Chun, Argentina’s Patricia Bermudez and Colombia’s Carolina Castillo Hidalgo.

Obara went 4-0 at the World Cup, including a win over Chun and Hui Li of China. Li was second at the World Cup at the weight and could be China’s entry. Zhao wrestled at 51 kg/112 lbs. at the World Cup.

Merleni didn’t compete at the European qualifier, but qualified Ukraine for the Games by winning the final Olympic qualifier in Finland in May. She defeated Caripa Castillo to win the event, but it her last full-time season came in 2008, the year she finished with Olympic silver.

If Merleni is back to the form of old, she’ll be a real threat.

Matkowska, 30, won the European championship defeating Germany’s Alexandra Engelhardt in the final. A world medalist in 2006, she was in the bronze medal match at the 2010 World Championships, where she defeated American Alyssa Lampe after falling behind early in the bout. It’s that type of dangerous look Matkowska gives opponents.

Eshimova of Kazakhstan qualified the nation via a bronze in 2011. She is a tough opponent for any attacking competitor due to her strong defense. She was also blessed with incredible luck at last year’s worlds, winning three straight matches in the repechage via the clinch.

Asian champion Hyung-Joo Kim is expected to compete for Korea after moving down to 48 kg from 51 kg. She competed at the previous Olympic games at 48 kg and finished eighth.

FILA combined two qualifiers for this cycle, meaning the African and Oceanic nations would compete in one qualifying championship and treat it as a continental. While wrestling is still developing in those nations, Senegal’s Isabelle Sambou shouldn’t be overlooked. She was 10th in last year’s World Championships.

Expected Participants
48 kg/105.5 lbs.- Women's Freestyle

1st at 2011 World Championships – Hitomi Obara Sakamoto(Japan)
2nd at 2011 World Championships – Maria Stadnyk (Azerbaijan)
3rd at 2011 World Championships – Jyldyz Eshimova (Kazakhkstan)
3rd at 2011 World Championships – Shasha Zhao (China)
5th at 2011 World Championships – Carolina Castillo Hidalgo (Colombia)
5th at 2011 World Championships – Carol Huynh (Canada)
2012 European Olympic qualifier champion – Iwona Matkowska (Poland)
2012 European Olympic qualifier runner-up – Alexandra Engelhardt (Germany)
2012 Asian Olympic qualifier champion – Hyung-Joo Kim (Korea)
2012 Asian Olympic qualifier runner-up – Thi Lua Nguyen (Vietnam)
2012 Pan American Olympic qualifier champion – Clarissa Chun (United States)
2012 Pan American Olympic qualifier runner-up – Patricia Bermudez (Argentina)
2012 Africa/Oceania Olympic qualifier champion – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal)
2012 Africa/Oceania Olympic qualifier runner-up – Maroi Mezien (Tunisia)
Olympic Qualifier #1 champion – Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongola)
Olympic Qualifier #1 runner-up – Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus)
Olympic Qualifier #2 champion – Irina Merleni (Ukraine)
Olympic Qualifier #2 runner-up – Mayelis Caripa Castillo (Venezuela)

2011 World Championships

48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Hitomi Obara Sakamoto (Japan); Silver - Maria Stadnyk (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Shasha Zhao (China); Bronze - Jyldyz Eshimova (Kazakhstan); 5th - Carolina Castillo Hidalgo (Colombia); 5th - Carol Huynh (Canada); 7th - Clarissa Chun (United States) 8th - Tatyana Samkova (Russia); 9th - Mayelis Caripa Castillo (Venezuela); 10th - Isabelle Sambou (Senegal)

2010 World Championships
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold – Hitomi Sakamoto (Japan); Silver – Lorissa Oorzhak (Russia); Bronze – Sasha Zhao (China); Bronze – Carol Huyhn (Canada); 5th – Patimat Bagomedova (Azerbaijan); 5th – Iwona Matkowska (Poland); 7th – Yana Stadnik (Great Britain); 8th – Khrystyna Daranutsa (Ukraine); 9th – Enkhjargal Tsogtbazar (Mongolia); 10th – Hyung-Joo Kim (Korea)

2009 World Championships
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Mariya Stadnyk (Azerbaijan); Silver - Lorisa Oorzhak (Russia); Bronze - Sim Hyang So (North Korea); Bronze - Lyudmila Balushka (Ukraine); 5th - Thi Lua Nguyen (Vietnam); 5th - Yana Stadnik (Great Britain); 7th - Lindsay Rushton (Canada); 8th - Makiko Sakamoto (Japan); 9th - Clarissa Chun (USA); 10th - Sara Sanchez (Spain)

2008 Olympic Games
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Carol Huyhn (Canada); Silver - Chiharu Icho (Japan); Bronze - Mariya Stadnyk (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Irini Merlini (Ukraine); 5th - Tatyana Bakatyuk (Kazakhstan); 5th - Clarissa Chun (USA); 7th - Vanessa Boubryemm (France); 8th - Kim Hyung-Joo (Korea); 9th - Ingrid Medrano (El Salvador); 10th - Estera Dobre (Romania)

2008 World Championships
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold – Clarissa Chun (USA); Silver – Jyldyz Eshimova-Turtbayeva (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Makiko Sakamoto (Japan); Bronze – Guibei Su (China); 5th – Demet Kaya (Turkey); 5th – Tsogbazar Enkhjargal (Mongolia); 7th – Fani Psatha (Greece); 8th – Aleksandra Kohut (Ukraine); 9th – Lindsay Rushton (Canada); 10th - Tsai Pei-Jing (Chinese Taipei)

2007 World Championships
48 kg/105.5 lbs.- Gold - Chiharu Icho (Japan); Silver - Irini Merleni (Ukraine); Bronze - Xiaomei Li (China); Bronze - Mayelis Caripa (Venezuela); 5th - Carol Huynh (Canada); 5th - Stephanie Murata (United States); 7th - Maria Stadnyk (Azerbaijan); 8th - Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); 9th - Venessa Boubryemm (France); 10th - Brigitte Wagner (Germany)

2006 World Championships
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Chiharu Icho (Japan); Silver - Ren Zue Cen (China); Bronze - Iwona Sadowska (Poland); Bronze - Francine DePaola (Italy); 5th - Marina Markevich (Belarus); 5th - Carol Huyhn (Canada); 7th - Nataliya Pulkovska (Ukraine); 8th - Hajar Ashtiani (Finland); 9th - Mary Kelly (USA); 10th - Sunisa Klahan (Thailand)

2005 World Championships
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Xueceng Ren (China); Silver - Irini Merleni (Ukraine); Bronze - Carol Huynh (Canada); Bronze - Makiko Sakamoto (Japan); 5th - Mayelis Caripa (Venezuela); 5th - Liliya Kaskarakova (Russia); 7th - Jenny Wong (USA); 8th - Francine DePaola (France); 9th - Sigrun Dobner (Germany); 10th - Zhyldyz Eshimova (Kyrgyzstan)

2004 Olympic Games
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Irini Merleni (Ukraine); Silver - Chiharu Icho (Japan); Bronze - Patricia Miranda (United States); 4th - Angelique Berthenet-Hidalgo (France); 5th - Lorissa Oorzak (Russia); 6th - Brigitte Wagner (Germany); 7th - Lidia Karamtshakova (Tajikistan); 8th - Enkhjargal Tsogtbazar (Mongolia) 9th - Hui Li (China); 10th - Fani Psatha (Greece)
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