ISTANBUL (August 14) – Hitomi Obara, the world champion formerly known as Hitomi Sakamoto, notched the eighth world title of her career in a nail-biter over Maria Stadnyk (AZE) as the women's events got under way at the senior wrestling world championships.
Obara, who retired briefly in 2008, surrendered the first period to 2009 champ Stadnyk by giving up a last-second double-leg takedown. She struck back, however, with a quick double-leg takedown in the second that she made stand to square the final at a period apiece.
In the third period, both wrestlers circled and feinted, but Obara scored first with an ankle pick midway through the stanza. She had to fight off a deep single-leg by Stadnyk 20 seconds later, but managed to squirm out of danger for the win.
“This is the first time that I've wrestled at the world championships with a chance to go to the Olympics,” said Obara, who won six of her world titles at 51kg before retiring from 2008 to 2010.
“I think I made a pretty good start today (for next year's Olympic Games in London),” added Obara. The 30-year-old Aomori native came out of retirement in late 2009 after younger sister Makiko decided to hang up her wrestling shoes, leaving the 48kg slot on the national team open.
Obara announced her marriage to childhood friend and high school wrestling teammate Koji Obara last October.
Meanwhile, at 51kg, national team newcomer Mareka Shidochi got off to a great start with three straight wins, including a 2-1 win over 2009 world runner-up Han Kum-Ok (PRK) in the final seconds of their quarterfinal.
The winner of the junior world title in July, however, lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Zamira Rakhmanova (RUS) and then to Canadian veteran Jessica MacDonald in the match for third place.
In the final greco-roman category, Takehiro Kanakubo posted one win but could not overcome the experience of 2008 European champion Peter Bacsi (HUN) in the second round. Kanakubo, who finished fifth at last year's world meet, was eliminated from medal contention when Bacsi lost in the quarterfinals.
Overall, Japan's greco-roman only managed to snare an eighth place (Kosei Hasegawa, 55kg) and a ninth place (Yuji Okamoto, 66kg) in one of the least impressive showings by the Japanese squad in recent years.
Russia won the team title with 41 points and one champion, Roman Vlasov (74kg), and three bronze medals. Turkey was second with 35 points and one champion, followed by Iran with 30 points despite champions in two weight categories.
74kg – KANAKUBO, Takehiro (xx, 47 entries)
R1 – df. Hassan Shahsavan (AUS), 2-0 (1-0, 2-0)
Kanakubo takes the first period on a defensive point in the par terre, then earns the win over the Oceania champion with a force-out on the feet.
R2 – lost to Peter Bacsi (HUN), 0-2 (0-2, 0-3)
Kanakubo has his hands full with the former European champion, getting turned with a gut wrench in the first period and thrown out of bounds twice in the second period. Bacsi lost in the quarterfinals, knocking Kanakubo out of the tournament.
48kg – OBARA, Hitomi (Gold, 40 entries)
R1 – bye
R2 – df. Lenka Matejova (SVK), 2-0 (6-0=0:58, 7-2)
Obara rolled to a technical in the first period with a quick snap down and a pair of gut wrenches, but had to fight off her back when she got careless with a gut wrench in the second. The defending champ, however, recovered quickly with a go-behind and gut wrench to win going away.
R3 – df. Henriette Slattum (NOR), 2-0 (3-0, 6-0=0:26)
Obara took the first period with three go-behinds, then opened up in the second with a quick double-leg to the back for a nearfall and the technical.
R4 – df. Carol Huynh (CAN), 2-0 (1-0=2:07, 1-0)
Obara drew her own color (red) for the clinch at the end of the first period and converted for a point against the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, then took a quick double-leg in the second period and made it stand for the win.
SF – df. Zhao Shasha (CHN) by fall, 1P=1:42 (F5-2)
Obara had trouble getting to the legs of last year's bronze medalist, but got around behind and then had a 2-2 exchange on a gut wrench attempt. When Zhao tried to reverse momentum with a leg attack, Obara countered with a tilt and then pressed for the fall.
F1 – df. Mariya Stadnyk (AZE), 2-1 (2-3, 1-0, 1-0)
Stadnyk stunned the defending champion with a three-point double-leg takedown at the final click of the clock in the first period, but Obara came back with a quick double-leg in the second to square the bout at a period apiece.
In the third period, Obara scored with an ankle-pick at 0:58, but then had to fight off a single-leg attempt by Stadnyk at 1:20 to secure the victory.
51kg – SHIDOCHI, Mareka (5th, 23 entries)
R1 – df. Aurelie Bassett (FRA), 2-0 (2-0, 1-0)
Shidochi made her senior international debut with a single-leg and go-behind in the first period and then makes a double-leg stand for a win against a former European junior bronze medalist.
R2 – df. Olga Narepekha (UKR), 2-0 (2-1, 1-0)
Shidochi wrestles cautiously against the upper-body control of Narepekha but takes the first period with a low single and exposure. She comes out quickly with the same technique in the second and makes the point stand for the win against the 2009 European junior champion.
R3 – df. Han Kum-Ok (PRK), 2-1 (1-0, 0-4, 1x-1=last)
Shidochi waited until the final second of the first period to score with a double-leg takedown, but Han stormed back with a go-behind and leg turn in the second.
The 2009 world silver medalist pushed Shidochi out of the circle for a point midway through the third period, but Shidochi came back with single-to-double combination for the win on the last point.
SF – lost to Zamira Rakhmanova (RUS), 0-2 (0-3, 0-5)
Shidochi wrestled tentatively against the Russian veteran and gave up a go-behind and gut wrench in the first period. Rakhmanova then put the match away with an ankle-pick takedown and two quick tilts for exposure.
F3 – lost to Jessica MacDonald (CAN), 0-2 (1-6, 0-1)
Shidochi came out attacking but MacDonald countered for a 1-2 exchange. The Pan American champion then added a tilt and nearfall to close the first period. In the second, a go-behind at 1:28 was enough to secure the bronze medal for MacDonald.