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|2007 World Championships preview at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
For five straight years, Kaori Icho of Japan has won the gold medal at this weight class, including the Olympic title in 2004. Icho has been a model of consistency, peaking when it most counts every year. There was a blip on her amazing record of achievement with an eighth place finish at the Asian Championships earlier in 2007. However, you can bet that she will be ready to defend her World-level streak of gold medals in Baku this year.
Placing second to Icho last year at the World Championships was Xu Haiyan of China, who is listed as China's entry again this season. Xu won the gold medal at the Asian Championships this year and was third at the 2006 Asian Games.
The bronze medalists from last year's World Championships were Monika Rogien of Poland and Helena Allandi of Sweden. For both athletes, it was their first World medal on the Senior level and the top performances of their careers. Rogien won a bronze medal at the European Championships this year, while Allani placed out of the medals.
A talented veteran in the field is Sara McMann of the United States, who placed second to Icho at the 2004 Olympic Games and has a long history of very competitive battles with Icho at the major events. McMann placed out of the medals last year at the World Championships, but is coming off a very good season in 2007, including a gold medal at the World Cup and the Pan American Games. McMann was a World silver medalist in 2003 and a World bronze medalist in 2005, and seeks her first gold medal on the World level.
Russia's entry this year is listed as Alena Kartashova, who was a 2002 World champion at 59 kg. Kartashova was second in the European Championships this year, and was a 2006 European champion. Kartashova was fifth at the 2003 World Championships and eighth at the Olympic Games competing at this division.
The 2007 European champion was Stefanie Stuber of Germany, who was eighth in the World last year down at 59 kg. Stuber is a veteran of a number of past Senior World Championships, but has never won a medal at that level.
Nikola Hartmann-Dunser of Austria, a five-time World champion, continues to compete at this weight class and must always be considered a serious threat. She was eighth at the European Championships this year, and placed out of the top 10 at the World Championships last season. Her last World gold medal came in 2000.
Olga Khilko of Ukraine was a 2005 World bronze medalist and placed 10th in the World last year. Khilko placed sixth at the 2004 Olympic Games, and has a tremendous amount of international experience.
Other athletes who placed in the top 10 at the World Championships last year included Yoselin Rojas of Venezuela, Karine Shadoyan of Armenia, Agoro Papavassiliou of Greece and Mihaela Sadoveanu of Romania.
Rojas was second at the Pan American Games this year, losing to McMann in the finals. Winning a bronze medal at the Pan American Games was Megan Dolan of Canada, who competed at her first World Championships last year and did not place.
Ukraine lists Yuliya Ostapchuk, the 2007 Junior World champion, as its entry in Baku this year. Ostapchuk also won the European Juniors title this year. Another option for Ukraine is Ganna Vasilenko, who won a bronze medal at the European Championships this year and was a Junior World bronze medalist last year.
Winning a silver medal at the Asian Championships this year Elena Shalygina of Kazakhstan, who was a Junior World silver medalist in 2006. The Asian Championships bronze medalists were Hang In-Young of Korea and Badrakh Odionchimeg of Mongolia.
This weight class has been dominated by Japan's Kaori Icho for a long time. Once again, the quest for the rest of the field will be to defeat Icho. If she is at her best, Sara McMann of the United States has shown the ability to push Icho hard in very close battles.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2006 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver - Xu Hai Yan (China); Bronze - Monika Rogien (Poland); Bronze - Helena Allandi (Sweden); 5th - Yoselin Rojas (Venezuela); 5th - Lyubov Volosov (Russia); 7th - Karine Shadoyan (Armenia); 8th - Agoro Papavassiliou (Greece); 9th - Mihaela Sadoveanu (Romania); 10th - Volha Khilko (Belarus)
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)