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2006 World Championships preview at 59 kg/130 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling

Ayako Shoda of Japan is the reigning World champion, after defeating Marianna Sastin of Hungary in the finals in Budapest, Hungary last year. It was Shoda's second career gold medal, but the first came way back in 2000. Shoda also won the title at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year, and jumped up a weight to win the Asian Championships at 63 kg. She seems to be at the top of her game going into the World meet this year.

For a number of years, Seiko Yamamoto was the top Japanese star at this division. A four-time World champion, Yamamoto won her last World title at this division back in 2003. She was the Asian champion this year and placed third at the Women's World Cup. According to Japanese media reports, Yamamoto has retired.

Sastin was third at the European Championships this year. She won a controversial semifinal match against American Sally Roberts to earn her shot at Shoda last year on her home mats in Hungary. Sastin was fourth in the 2003 World Championships, losing to Roberts in the bronze-medal match in New York City.

Roberts was one of the two 2005 World bronze medallists, joined by veteran Lene Aanes of Norway. Roberts did not make the U.S. team, losing to Erin Tomeo in the Women's World Team Trials finals this year. Tomeo competed at the 2001 World Championships at 55 kg, when Tina George was unable to compete due to U.S. military boot camp. Tomeo has won a number of medals at international events, and seems to wrestle well at this weight class in recent years.

Aanes has won six career World medals, including two silver medals and four bronze medals. Her first World medal came back in 1995, when she was second at the 57 kg division. For many years, Aanes wrestled up at 63 kg, dropping down to 59 kg only last season. She is one of the most experienced athletes in the world, and will be a tough opponent whether she stays at this division or moves back up to 63 kg.

Ida Therese Karlsson of Sweden, who was fifth in the World last year, placed second behind Shoda at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year. She was a European champion at this weight class in 2005, and placed fourth at the 2004 Olympic Games at 55 kg. Karlsson was a World bronze medalist back in 2002, also down at 55 kg.

The 2006 European champion was Liubov Volossova of Russia, who beat Germany's Stefanie Stueber in the finals. Volossova boasts a World silver medal from 2001, competing at 56 kg. Russia has some options at this division, including 2006 Junior World champion Larissa Kanaeva and Natalia Ivanova, who was third at the Golden Grand Prix finals. Ivanova competed in the 2004 Olympic Games, representing Tajikistan, but is once again wrestling for Russia.

Si Lihui of China, the 2005 World silver medalist at 55 kg, was second at the 2006 Asian Championships at this weight class and also won the Canada Cup here this year. Audrey Prieto of France was third at both the European Championships and the FILA Golden Grand Prix in 2006.

Anna Zwirydowska of Poland placed fifth at the World Championships last year and was third at the Junior World Championships this summer. She was also seventh at the European Championships in 2006. Other athletes who placed in the top 10 at the World meet last year were Yuliya Ratkevich of Belarus, Michelle Richardson of Canada, Olena Komarova of Ukraine and Alka Tomar Singh of India. Richardson has placed in the top 10 of the World meet three times, but seeks her first World medal.

There is a bit of flux in this weight class, as a non-Olympic division where athletes tend to move in and out of the field. Japan has won the weight class the last two times it was contested, and defending champion Shoda seems to be wrestling very well this year.


2005 World Championships results
59 kg/130 lbs. - Gold - Ayako Shoda (Japan); Silver - Marianna Sastin (Hungary); Bronze - Sally Roberts (USA); Bronze - Lene Aanes (Norway); 5th - Anna Zwirydowska (Poland); 5th - Ida Theres-Karlsson (Sweden); 7th - Yuliya Ratkevich (Belarus); 8th - Michelle Richardson (Canada); 9th - Olena Komarova (Ukraine); 10th - Alka Tomar Singh (India)

2004 - Olympic Year - No World Championships at this non-Olympic weight

2003 World Championships results
59 kg/130 lbs. - Gold - Seiko Yamamoto (Japan) dec. Natalia Ivashko (Russia), 4-0; Bronze - Sally Roberts (United States) pin Marianna Sastin (Hungary), 5:36; 5th - Oksana Shalikova (Ukraine); 6th - Seba Jimenez Valderrama (Spain); 7th - Emily Richardson (Canada); 8th - Natalia Ivanova (Tajikistan); 9th - Stefanie Stueber (Germany); 10th - Helena Allandi (Sweden)

2002 World Championships results
59 kg/130 lbs. - 1st - Alena Cartashova (Russia) dec. Lotta Andersson (Sweden), 4-0, ot, 7:07; 3rd - Mabel Fonseca (Puerto Rico) dec. Sandrine Seve (France), 3-1, ot, 7:21; 5th - Christina Oertli (Germany); 6th - Ramirez Mendoza (Mexico); 7th - Rena Iwama (Japan); 8th - Emily Richardson (Canada); 9th - Agoro Papavassiliou (Greece); 10th - Oxana Shalikova (Ukraine)
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