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2006 World Championships preview at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling
Kaori Icho of Japan has a four-year streak at the World level, winning the 2004 Olympic title and World gold medals in 2002, 2003 and 2005. This record of success goes all the way through her career. Her first appearance at a major international meet came at the 2002 Asian Games, where she won a silver medal. Since then, Icho has captured 13 straight gold medals, in events also including the Asian Championships and the World Cup. This year, Icho won her fifth World Cup title, her only appearance at a prominent event.
Icho defeated Sara McMann of the United States in the gold-medal matches at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece and the 2003 World Championships in New York. Icho wrestled McMann right away at the 2005 World meet in Hungary. When McMann lost, she battled back to take the bronze medal, her third straight medal at the World level. McMann has beaten Icho at an international tournament in the past, and all of their bouts are very close and competitive. Once again, she may get the chance to break Icho's winning streak at the World level.
Claiming the World silver medal last year was Rui Xue Jing of China, who has wrestled up at 67 kg this year, winning the World Cup and the Canada Cup at the higher weight class. Other Chinese wrestlers at this weight this year have been Gao Pei, who was fourth at the Asian Championships, and Haiyan Xu, who was second at the World Cup at 63 kg and won the Canada Cup at this division. If Rui Xue Jing is not down to this division, you can expect a solid performance from the Chinese athlete on her home mats.
Alena Kartashova of Russia won the European gold medal at this weight in 2006, and was a 2002 World champion at 59 kg. Kartashova was fifth at the 2003 World Championships and eighth at the Olympic Games at this division, so she is seeking her first World medal at the higher weight class. Anna Polovneva represented Russia at the World Championships last year, placing fifth in the standings. Polovneva was fourth at the World Cup the last two years.
Monika Rogien of Poland was second at the European Championships as well as second at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals. Rogien was the European champion in 2003 and 2005, but is still seeking her first World-level medal. Olga Khilko of Ukraine was a 2005 World bronze medalist and placed third at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year. Khilko was just seventh at the European Championships this year.
Nikola Hartmann-Dunser of Austria, a five-time World champion, was a European bronze medalist this year. Her last World gold medal came in 2000. Now at the age of 31, she remains a dangerous opponent. Hartmann-Dunser did not qualify to compete at the 2004 Olympic Games, which may be why she continues to compete for that opportunity in 2008.
Katarzyna Juszezak of Italy placed fifth at the World Championships, her best World-level performance to date. She was also fifth at the European Championships in 2006. Agoro Papavasilioeu of Greece won a bronze medal at the European Championships this year.
Placing in the top 10 at the World Championships last year were Michaela Krizkova of the Czech Republic, Tara Hedican of Canada, Monika Szerencse of Hungary and Helena Allandi of Sweden. None of these athletes have won a World medal to date. Hedican was a Junior World champion in 2001, and Allandi has won Junior World bronze medals the last two years.
Lene Aanes of Norway has won six career World medals, with most of them at 63 kg. She won a bronze medal last year, dropping to 59 kg. If Aanes returns to this weight class, she will be among the top medal hopefuls.
The 2006 FILA Junior World champion was Mio Nishimaki of Japan, who also won the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals but must wait her turn behind Icho. Elena Shalygina of Kazakhstan placed second in the Junior Worlds, and was second at the Asian Championships.
Other athletes who will be in the hunt include Stephanie Gross of Germany, Mihaela Sadoveanu of Romania and Oxana Shalikova of Ukraine.
This weight class has been owned by Kaori Icho of Japan, who has a four-year grip on the gold medals. Sara McMann of the USA is expected to challenge Icho once again, and a deep field of other contenders are also looking to take the gold away from Icho.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2005 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver - Rui Xue Jing (China); Bronze - Sara McMann (USA); Bronze - Olga Khilko (Ukraine); 5th - Anna Polovneva (Russia); 5th - Katarzyna Juszezak (Italy); 7th - Michaela Krizkova (Czech Republic); 8th - Tara Hedican (Canada); 9th - Monika Szerencse (Hungary); 10th - Helena Allandi (Sweden)
2004 Olympic Games results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver - Sara McMann (USA); Bronze - Lise Legrand (France); 4th - Stavroula Zygouri (Greece); 5th - Viola Yanik (Canada); 6th - Volha Khilko (Belarus); 7th - Stephanie Gross (Germany); 8th - Alena Kartashova (Russia); 9th - Lili Meng (China); 10th - Sara Eriksson (Sweden)
2003 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan) dec. Sara McMann (United States), 4-3, ot, 8:20; Bronze - Viola Yanik (Canada) pin Lyudmila Golovchenko (Ukraine), 2:44; 5th - Alena Kartacheva (Russia); 6th - Lene Aanes (Norway); 7th - Sabrina Esposito (Italy); 8th - Volha Khilko (Belarus); 9th - Stephanie Gross (Germany); 10th - Geetika Jakhar (India)
2002 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - 1st - Kaori Icho (Japan) pin Sara Eriksson (Sweden), 4:38; 3rd - Lene Aanes (Norway) pin Haivan Xu (China), 2:35; 5th - Malgorzata Bassa (Poland); 6th - Nikola Hartmann-Dunser (Austria); 7th - Stephanie Gross (Germany); 8th - Geetika Jakhar (India); 9th - Tara Hedican (Canada); 10th - Myagmarsuren (Mongolia)
2001 World Championships results
62 kg/136.5 lbs. - Gold - Lili Meng (China) dec. Diletta Giampiccola (Italy), 4-0; Bronze - Lene Aanes (Norway) dec. Stephanie Gross (Germany), 3-0; 5th - Volha Khilko (Belarus); 6th - Bassa Malgorzata (Poland); 7th - Lyudmila Golovchenko (Ukraine); 8th - Patricia Leibel (Canada); 9th - Lotta Andersson (Sweden); 10th - Michala Krizkova (Czech. Republic)