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|2005 World Championships preview at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
The first women's wrestling Olympic champion of all time was the exciting Irini Merlini of Ukraine, a three-time World champion who had a marvelous performance at the Athens Games. Merlini stopped Japan's Chiharu Icho, a 2003 World champion at 51 kg, in the gold-medal match. It is possible that neither Olympic finalist will be at this division in Budapest, as both Merlini and Icho have been competing up in weight . This opens the weight class up to new possibilities.
The Olympic bronze medalist was Patricia Miranda of the United States, who has not competed since her Olympic matches. Her replacement in the U.S. lineup is Jenny Wong, a 2003 World bronze medalist at 51 kg who dropped in weight for the U.S. Trials. Wong has size and experience and becomes a top contender right away.
Just missing out on medals in Athens were Angelique Berthenet-Hidalgo of France in fourth place, Loorisa Oorzhak of Russia in fifth place and Brigitte Wagner of Germany in sixth place. Oorzhak was the 2005 European champion and two-time Junior World champion at this division. Wagner, a 2002 World champion and a former Junior World champion, is also capable of winning it all.
Canada should be strong here, with either Olympian Lyndsey Belisle or past World medalist Carol Huyhn in the mix. Huyhn won a gold medal at the World University Games in Turkey this summer. Belisle has had success up at 51 kg in the past as well.
China's Ren Xuecheng won the 2005 Asian Championships, followed by Makiko Sakimoto of Japan in second, with bronze medals won by Dahdavaa Baasanjargal of Mongolia and Bekzat Mustafina of Kazakhstan. Sakamoto will be a major medal contender in Budapest, having won a gold medal at the Women's World Cup this season.
Other medalists at the European Championships were silver medalist Iwona Matkowska-Sadowska of Poland, and bronze medalists Anne Delunsche of France and Fani Psatha of Greece. Mayelis Caripa of Venezuela was the Pan American champion this year, beating Guadelupe Perez of Mexico in the finals.
Other athletes to watch are 2005 Junior World bronze medalists Lyudmila Balushka of Ukraine and Maryna Markevich of Belarus. The World University Games featured silver medalist Yuuri Funatsu of Japan and bronze medalist Oleksandra Kohut of Ukraine. Kohut was also a Junior World champion this year, competing up at 51 kg.
Always among the athletes to watch are the Karamtchkova sisters. Inga was a 2002 World silver medalist in 2002 at this division, competing for Russia. Lidiya wrestled in the 2004 Olympic Games for Tajikistan and placed seventh. A veteran athlete to watch is Ida Hellstrom of Sweden, who was a World bronze medalist in 2002.
This weight class is always competitive, with many young talents coming along at a regular basis. With all three Olympic medalists expected not to compete at 121 pounds, there will be a rugged battle for position in this division.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2004 Olympic Games results
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Irini Merlini (Ukraine); Silver - Chiharu Icho (Japan); Bronze - Patricia Miranda (USA); 4th- Angelique Berthenet (France); 5th - Lorisa Oorzhak (Russia); 6th- Brigitte Wagner (Germany); 7th - Lidiya Karamchakova (Tajikistan); 8th - Enkhjargal Tsogbazar (Mongolia); 9th - Li Hui (China); 10th - Fani Psatha (Greece)
2003 World Championships results
105.5 - Gold - Irini Merleni (Ukraine) dec. Patricia Miranda (United States), 5-4; Bronze - Li Hui (China) pin Fani Psatha (Greece), 5:56; 5th - Makiko Sakamoto (Japan); 6th - Angelique Berthenet (France); 7th - Alfia Zaynulina (Kyrgyzstan); 8th - Inga Karamchakova (Russia); 9th - Kamelia Tzekova (Bulgaria); 10th - Mayerli Karipa (Venezuela)
2002 World Championships results
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - 1st - Brigitte Wagner (Germany) dec. Inga Karamtshakova (Russia), 4-3; 3rd - Ida Hellstrom (Sweden) pin Nicoleta Badea (Romania), 2:50; 5th - Carol Huyhn (Canada); 6th - Laurianne Mary (France); 7th - Angeles Barazza Sanchez (Mexico); 8th - Mayelis Caripa (Venezuela); 9th - Flor Quispe (Peru); 10th - Myrsini Koloni (Greece)
2001 World Championships results
46 kg/101.25 lbs. - Gold - Irina Melnik (Ukraine) dec. Carol Huyhn (Canada), 3-0; Bronze - Brigitte Wagner (Germany) dec. Farah Touchi (France), 4-2; 5th - Misato Shimizu (Japan); 6th - Agoro Papavassiliou (Greece); 7th - Volha Prydanikava (Belarus); 8th - Kamelia Tzekova (Bulgaria); 9th - Ayse Guneri (Turkey); 10th - Inga Karamthakova (Russia)