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|2007 World Championships preview at 51 kg/112.25 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
The superstar in this division has been Japan's Hitomi Sakamoto, who has won the World Championships at this weight the last two years and was also a World champion in 2001. She has dominated the opponents in recent seasons. Japan also won the World title here in 2003 with Chiharu Icho, who has since dropped to 48 kg and won a World title there. Sakamoto did not compete at the Asian Championships or World Cup this year, but remains Japan's top star in this division.
Winning the 2006 World silver medal was veteran Canadian star Lindsay Belisle, who had her career best performance last year in China by. However, the Canadian entry this year will be veteran Erica Sharp, who was second at the 1999 World Championships, and most recently fifth at the 2005 World Championships. She has been at six previous World Championships, going back to 1993, one of the most experienced athletes in the field.
Patricia Miranda of the United States won a bronze medal here in 2006, her first year back from a short retirement after winning a 2004 Olympic bronze medal at 48 kg. Miranda also won two other World silver medals. Miranda has finished law school and is training full-time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center once again, with the goal of returning to the Olympics and winning a gold medal.
The other 2006 World bronze medalist was Russia's young Alena Adashinskaya, who also wrestled at the World Cup this year. Russia has many of options at this weight class, including 2007 European champion Zamira Rahmanova, who was also second at the 2007 World Cup. Rakhmanova is listed as the Russian entry on FILA's website, but Olga Gileva and Irina Kisel are also on their preliminary list, neither who have substantial international experience.
China lists Xueceng Ren as its entry at 51 kg, even though she was the 2005 World champion and 2006 World silver medalist down at 48 kg. Ren has had some success at this weight class, and will be a medal contender here if she is the entry. Other options for China include 2005 World bronze medalist Juling Wen of China, plus Rong Lio, who was third in the Asian Championships this year and Li Xioa, the 2007 Junior World bronze medalist.
Oleksandra Kohut of Ukraine has placed fifth in the World Championships the last two years in this weight class and seeks to break through with a medal. Kohut was third at the Junior World Championships in Beijing, China this year, and also fifth at the European Championships. She also won a Junior World title back in 2005, and has considerable experience even though she is just 20 years old. Kohut has made 48 kg in the past, but with Olympic champion Irini Merlini back at that class, she is expected to stay up at 51 kg.
There were some new names in the results at the European Championships, athletes that will seek to make a name for themselves at the World level this year. Estera Dobre of Romania captured the silver medal, and the bronze medals went to Maria del Mar Serrano Barcelo of Spain and Emese Barka of Hungary. All are young and none of them have won a Senior-level World medal, so there are questions if they will be a factor in Baku.
There are other talents from the European nations who could be medal contenders. Vanessa Boubryemm of France placed second at the 2005 World Championships and was a 2006 European champion. Boubryemm is listed as dropping to 48 kg this year, with Anne Catherine Deluntch as the French entry at 51 kg.
Alexandra Englehart of Germany was second in the 2006 European Championships and has competed in two previous World Championships. Alena Kareisha of Belarus was fourth at the 2003 World Championships, but is listed as an alternate behind Tatsiana Hryhoryeva on the FILA list.
The 2007 Asian champion is Jyldyz Eshimova-Turtbayeva of Kazakhstan, who was eighth at the Junior World Championships this year. Park Yeon Jim of Korea, an Asian bronze medalist this year, placed seventh in the World Championships last year. Dinara Mirzaeva of Uzbekistan, eighth in last year's World Championships, did not compete at the Asian Championships this year, but is a past Asian silver medalist. Babita Kumari of India was second at the 2007 Junior World Championships.
The African champion this year was Isabelle Sambou of Senegal. Winning the 2007 Pan American Championships was Maria Sarmiento of Venezuela (this division was not included in the Pan American Games).
Japan has won this weight class four of the last five times, with just the 2002 World title going to Sofia Poumbouridou of Greece, who is now competing up at 55 kg. There are a number of athletes who have won past World medals and continental titles, all seeking to be the one who beats Hitomi Sakamoto and loosens the Japanese stranglehold on the division.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2006 World Championships
51 kg./112.25 lbs. - Gold - Hitomi Sakamoto (Japan); Silver - Lindsay Belisle (Canada); Bronze - Patricia Miranda (United States); Bronze - Alena Adashinskaya (Russia); 5th - Okeksandra Kohut (Ukraine); 5th - Brigitte Wagner (Germany); 7th - Park Yeon Jim (Korea); 8th - Dina Mirzaeva (Uzbekistan); 9th - Liao Dong Hua (China); 10th - Maria del Mar Serrano (Spain)
2005 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold - Hitomi Sakamoto (Japan); Silver - Vanessa Boubryemm (France); Bronze - Tsogtbaz Enkhjargal (Mongolia); Bronze - Juling Wen (China); 5th - Aleksandra Kohut (Ukraine); 5th - Erica Sharp (Canada); 7th - Stephanie Murata (USA); 8th - Dinara Mirzaeva (Uzbekistan); 9th - Natalya Smirnova (Russia); 10th - Nurzat Shaylobaeva (Kyrgyzstan)
2004 - Olympic Year - No World Championships at this non-Olympic weight
2003 World Championship
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold - Chiharu Icho (Japan) dec. Natalia Karamchakova (Russia), 3-0; Bronze - Jenny Wong (United States) dec. Alena Kareisha (Belarus), 3-2, ot, 6:02; 5th - Wen Juling (China); 6th - Anne Catherine Deluntsch (France); 7th - Elzbieta Stryczek (Poland); 8th - Mersini Koloni (Greece); 9th - Nadine Tokar (Switzerland); 10th - Alexandra Demmel (Germany)
2002 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - 1st - Sofia Poumbouridou (Greece) dec. Chiharu Icho (Japan), 3-0, ot; 3rd - Natalia Golts (Russia) dec. Lyndsay Belisle (Canada), 3-0; 5th - Viktorya Brandush (Ukraine); 6th - M.Ugrun Percin (Turkey); 7th - Wen Juling (China); 8th - M. Magdelena Arellano (Mexico); 9th - Alena Kareisha (Belarus); 10th - Stephanie Murata (USA)