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2006 World Championships preview at 51 kg/112.25 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling
The returning World champion is Hitomi Sakamoto of Japan, who defeated Vanessa Boubryemm of France in the World finals last year. Sakamoto was also a World champion in 2001, and will be among the favorites again this year. Sakamoto won a silver medal at the World Cup this yeqar, as well. The previous World Championships was held in 2003, and Japan captured the title then with Chiharu Icho, who has reportedly dropped down to 48 kg.
Boubryemm was European champion this year, and placed fifth at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals event. France also boasts the FILA Golden Grand Prix champion, Juliette Willocq, who beat Yuri Kai of Japan in the finals.
Looking for a medal at this division is 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Patricia Miranda of the United States, who returned from a year off and has moved up in weight from 48 kg. Miranda also boasts two World silver medals, and the first World medal was up at this division. When she is wrestling with confidence, Miranda is very difficult to beat. She has won a number of international medals this year since her return, which shows she can excel at this weight class, as well.
Claiming World bronze medals last year were Tsogtbaz Enkhjargal of Mongolia and Juling Wen of China. Enkhjargal won the World University Championships gold medal this year, and was eighth in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Wen was the Asian champion this year, and competed at both the 2002 and 2003 World Championships for China. However, it is unclear who will compete for China this year at this weight class. Xueceng Ren was the World champion at 48 kg last year, and won the Women's World Cup up at 51 kg this year, ahead of both Sakamoto and Miranda. Also competing for China in recent international events has been Hui Li and Rong Lio. We can expect China to have a strong entry, regardless of who they select to compete.
Aleksandra Kohut of Ukraine and Erica Sharp of Canada were fifth at the World meet last year. Kohut was third at the FILA Golden Grand Prix this year, and also captured the Junior European gold medal. She was a Junior World champion in 2003. Sharp has paid her dues against some talented competitors from within her country in recent seasons. She won a World silver medal in 1999, and has been on the Canadian World team five times.
Natalya Smirnova of Russia, who was ninth in the World last year, has won a European silver medal and bronze medal the last two years. Russia has traditionally been very strong at this division. Former World medalist Inga Karamchakova is among those who could be selected for the Russian team.
Alexandra Englehart of Germany was the 2006 European Championships runner-up at this division, and she placed fifth at the FILA Golden Grand Prix. Her other appearance for Germany at the World level was in 2003, when she was 10th in the World meet in New York City. 2002 World champion Brigitte Wagner of Germany moved up to 51 kg for the World Championships last year, but did not place in the top 10. All of her previous achievements have been at 48 kg.
Dinara Mirzaeva of Uzbekistan and Nurzat Shaylobaeva of Kyrgyzstan placed among the top 10 at the World Championships last year. Mirzaeva was second at the 2005 Asian Championships, while placed fifth at the Asian Championships the last two years. Yura Gandolgor of Mongolia was the 2006 University World champion.
Alena Kareisha of Belarus was fourth at the 2003 World Championships, and placed seventh in this year's European Championships. Natalia Budu of Moldova was fifth in the European Championships in 2006.
Japan has done very well at this division, winning three of the last four gold medals awarded here at the World Championships. The 2002 World champion, Sofia Poumbouridou of Greece, has been up at 55 kg the last four years. It will take a great effort to break the Japanese control at this weight, but there are numerous veteran athletes in the field who have the ability to do that.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2005 World Championships results
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 results
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 results
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)
2001 World Championships results
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold - Hitomi Sakamoto (Japan) won by tech. fall over Stephanie Murata (USA), 12-1, 4:59; Bronze - Gao Yanzhi (China) pin Lindsay Belisle (Canada); 5th - Natalia Karamthakova (Russia); 6th - Vanena Boobryem (France); 7th - Djulia Okot (Bulgaria); 8th - Alena Kareisha (Belarus); 9th - Sofia Poubouridou (Greece); 10th - Inesa Rebar (Ukraine)