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Olympic Games preview at 53 kg in women’s freestyle: Winchester among four Senior World champions in loaded field

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Jacarra Winchester of the USA with the American flag after winning the 2019 World title.

Draw: August 4
Dates of competition: Thursday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6

U.S. representative: Jacarra Winchester (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/USOPTC)

This weight class does not have its 2019 World champion in the field, as Yong Mi Pak of North Korea claimed the gold in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, the last time a World Championships was held. When North Korea decided not to send a team to the Tokyo Olympics, two qualified North Korean women wrestlers were pulled, including Yong. Her place was ultimately filled by Luisa Valverde Melendres of Ecuador, who was seventh in the 2019 Worlds and the next athlete in the standings who had not qualified after Yong was taken out. Ironically, Valverde had enough points in the Ranking Series to earn a No. 3 seed.

There will be a 2019 World champion in the draw, however, since the 55 kg World champion in Nur-Sultan has dropped weight and qualified at 53 kg, the dynamic Jacarra Winchester. She qualified this weight for the Olympics when she reached the finals of the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Canada. Winchester was also fifth at the 2018 Worlds at 55 kg. Since coming down to this weight, Winchester has been dominant, scoring a ton of points to quickly finish her matches. She wrestled twice up at 55 kg in 2021, winning the Senior Nationals and the Pan American Championships. She will be unseeded, which should be concerning to anyone in the draw, including the top four seeds.

Two-time World champion Mayu Mukaida of Japan secured the No. 2 seed, boasting World titles from 2016 and 2018. Mukaida was upset in the 2019 World finals by Yong, She was also a 2016 World silver medalist. Her resume includes Cadet and Junior World titles, as well as a 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold. Her last major international event was the 2020 Asian Championships, where she got a silver medal.

Winchester and Mukaida are not the only past Senior World champions in the field. The finalists from the 2021 European Olympic Qualifier, Soffia Mattsson of Sweden and Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus, also have won World titles. Mattson won a World gold in 2009 at 51 kg, has earned six World Championship medals and also was an Olympic bronze medalist in 2016. Kaladzinskaya is a two-time World champion, with golds in 2012 and 2017. In Paris in 2017, she beat Mukaida in the finals. Like Winchester, neither of these World champions are seeded, meaning they could face anybody right off the bat based upon the blind draw.

The No. 1 seed in the tournament is 2019 World bronze medalist Vinesh Phogat of India, who scored the most points in the Ranking Series. Vinesh is a past Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion. In 2021, Vinesh won the Asian Championships, and captured golds at the Matteo Pellicone in Italy and the Poland Open.

Qianyu Pang of China was a 2019 World bronze medalist, which punched her ticket to Tokyo. She also won a World bronze medal in 2018. Pang won an Asian Championship back in 2017. Another two-time World medalist is Maria Prevolaraki of Greece, who claimed World bronze medals in 2012 and 2017. This will be Prevolaraki’s third Olympic Games. She does own a Senior World title in Beach Wrestling in 2014.

Another Senior World medalist is Bolortuya Bat Ochir of Mongolia, who claimed her World bronze medal in 2019 up at 55 kg. Bat Ochir secured her place in the Olympic Games by winning the 2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier. The other 2019 World bronze medalist at 55 kg in the field at 53 kg is Olga Khoroshavtseva of Russia, who didn’t earn her spot in the Olympics until she won the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria this spring. She was a 2015 Ivan Yargyin Grand Prix winner.

Kazakhstan will be represented by veteran Tatyana Akhmetova Amanzhol, who was fifth in the 2008 Olympic Games and has competed in nine Senior World events, with fifth place being her best finish. She was second at the 2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier.

Poland did a switch of athletes, when Jowita Wrzesien, who qualified the country for Tokyo by placing fifth at the 2019 World Championships at 57 kg, has moved down to the 53 kg berth that Poland had earned when Roksana Zasina placed fifth in 2019 at 53 kg. Zasina is now entered up at 57 kg in Wrzesien’s spot. This will be the first time that Wrzesien ever competed at 53 kg. Cuba also changed athletes, putting 2019 and 2021 Pan American Championships gold medalist Laura Herin Avila into the Tokyo field instead of Lianna Montero Herrera, who won the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier.

Others in the field include 2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion Joseph Essombe, a 2016 Olympian who has won nine African medals, four-time age-group World medalist Andreea Ana of Romania and two-time Oceania champion Rckaela Aquino of Guam.

Note: Starting July 9, USA Wrestling will be posting a weight class preview for the Olympic Games on a daily basis.

53 kg/116.5 lbs. in women's freestyle

NO. 1 SEED - 2019 World bronze medalist – India (Vinesh)

NO. 2 SEED - 2019 World silver medalist – Japan (Mayu Mukaida)

NO 3 SEED - 2019 World seventh place – Ecuador (Luisa Valverde Melendres)##

NO. 4 SEED - 2019 World bronze medalist – China (Qianyu Pang)

2019 World fifth place – Greece (Maria Prevolaraki)

2019 World fifth place – Poland (Jowita Maria Wrzesien)**

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier champion – Cuba (Laura Herin Avila)**

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up – United States (Jacarra Winchester)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion – Sweden (Sofia Mattsson)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Belarus (Vanesa Kaladzinskaya)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion – Cameroon (Joseph Essombe)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Guam (Rckaela Aquino)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier champion – Mongolia (Bolortuya Bat Ochir)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Kazakhstan (Tatyana Akhmetova Amanzhol)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier champion –Russia (Olga Khoroshavtseva)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier runner-up – Romania (Andreea Ana)


2019 World Championships

53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold - Yong Mi Pak (North Korea); Silver - Mayu Mukaida (Japan); Bronze – Vinesh (India); Bronze – Qianyu Pang (China); 5th – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 5th – Roksana Zasina (Poland); 7th - Luisa Elizabeth Valverde Melendres (Ecuador); 8th - Lianna De La Caridad Montero Herrera (Cuba); 9th - Sarah Hildebrandt (USA); 10th - Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus)

2018 World Championships

53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold - Haruna Okuno (Japan); Silver - Sarah Hildebrandt (USA); Bronze - Qianyu Pang (China); Bronze - Diana Weicker (Canada); 5th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 5th - Zhuldyz Eshimova (Kazakhstan); 7th - Luisa Elizabeth Valverde Melendres (Ecuador); 8th - Nina Hemmer (Germany); 9th - Anzhela Dorogan (Azerbaijan)

2017 World Championships

53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold - Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus); Silver - Mayu Mukaida (Japan); Bronze – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece) ; Bronze – Roksana Zasina (Poland); 5th - Estera Dobre (Romania),; 5th - Tong-Mi Pak (North Korea); 7th - Stalvira Orshush (Russia); 8th - Haley Augello (USA); 9th - Iryna Husyak (Ukraine); 10th - Sheetal Tomar (India)

2016 Olympic Games

53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold – Helen Maroulis (United States); Silver – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Bronze – Natalya Sinishin (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); 5th – Betzabeth Arguello (Venezuela); 5th – Xuechun Zhong (China); 7th – Jong Myong Suk (DPR Korea); 8th – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal); 9th- Kararzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 10th – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece)

2015 World Championships

53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Myong Jong Suk (North Korea); Bronze – Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria); 5th – Anzhela Dorogan (Azerbaijan); 5th – Xuechun Zhong (China); 7th – Kumari Bubita (India); 8th – Nina Hemmer (Germany); 9th – Thi Lua Nguyen (Vietnam); 10th – Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia)

2014 World Championships

53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Jillian Gallays (Canada); Bronze – Jong Myong Suk (North Korea); 5th – Natalia Malysheva (Russia); 5th – Natalia Budu (Moldova); 7th – Alma Jane Valencia (Mexico); 8th – Yuliya Blahinya (Ukraine); 9th – Whitney Conder (USA); 10th – Sumiya Erdenchimeg (Mongolia)

2013 World Championships

51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold – Yanan Sun (China); Silver – Erdennechimeg Sumiya (Mongolia); Bronze – Sim Hyang So (North Korea); Bronze – Jessica MacDonald (Canada); 5th – Victoria Anthony (USA); 5th – Yuliya Blahinya (Ukraine); 7th – Iriyna Kurachkina (Belarus); 8th – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal); 9th – Yu Miyahara (Japan); 10th - Vinesh (India)

2012 World Championships

51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold – Jessica MacDonald (Canada); Silver – Yanan Sun (China); Bronze – Alyssa Lampe (USA); Bronze – Kumari Babita (India); 5th - Zamira Rakhmanova (Russia); 5th - Abdutalipova Abdutalipova (Kazakhstan); 7th - Risako Kawai (Japan); 8th - Roksana Zasina (Poland); 9th - Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia); 10th - Alina Ryzhova (Belarus)
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