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Japan faces same thing in Beijing, as well as in Athens
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20:56, August 16, 2008

Japanese Saori Yoshida retained her women's 55kg freestyle wrestling title as her teammate Chiharu Icho lost again in the 48kg final following her Athens defeat at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday.

It's a repeat of history for the Japanese female wrestlers.

Four years ago in Athens, Yoshida won the title and Icho finished second after losing to Irini Merleni of Ukraine.

This time in Beijing, Icho strode over Merleni in the quarterfinals but was thrashed by darkhorse Carol Huynh of Canada in the final.

Huynh, 28, won Canada the first gold at the Beijing Olympics, which is also its first-ever wrestling Olympic gold for her country. Huynh overwhelmed Icho with a comfortable victory of two bouts, which sent hundreds of Icho's fans to silence.

Huynh threw her arms in the air, dropping her face into her hands after the win and running into her coaches' arms. She later grabbed a Canadian flag from a fan on the stand. Her coach hoisted her onto his shoulders and carried her out of the gym.

"It feels pretty special," said Huynh. "I know we have more to come, but it's nice to be the first one. I was a little nervous and heavy on my feet, but I just kept wrestling."

Icho admitted that Huynh was too strong for her to defeat.

"I have been working hard since the Athens Games with my younger Kaori. To me, this medal is gold," said Icho. "I should accept the result."

"I seriously thought of retiring for several times. But I just can't give up," said the 27-year-old Icho.

Yoshida's victory made her the first female wrestler retain an Olympic title since women's wrestling made its Olympic debut in Athens 2004. She dominated the final, giving her opponent, host wrestler Xu Li no chance and winning the two bouts 2-0, 5-0.

The 25-year-old had an undefeated record of 119 matches, which was ended by American Marcie van Dusen in the World Cup in Taiyuan, China in March this year.

"This gold really means a lot to me," said Yoshida. "I can't forget the loss to van Dusen. That's the only one in my career.

"That loss left a shadow in my heart and it forced me to keep training. I came here only for the gold.

"I never wasted any practise chance since 2004 and I kept on improving myself," added Yoshida. "And it is really good to win the gold."

Xu Li failed to earn China the first wrestling gold at the Beijing Olympics. The silver was China's second as Chang Yongxiang placed second in men's Greco-Roman 74kg class. Xu would have been the youngest Olympic wrestling gold medallist in any discipline.

Xu Li, 19, said she didn't expect to go into the final as her first target was just to be in the top eight.

"So the silver is all right to me," said Xu. "I fought with Yoshida twice and I lost both. She was really a strong rival to defeat."

"Anyway, I don't think I was performing my best. I will work hard in the future," added Xu.

European champion Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan and 2004 Athens champion Irini Merleni of Ukraine finished joint third in 48kg.

Jackline Renteria of Colombia defeated Ana Paval of Romania with a victory by fall in the bronze medal match of 55kg, to earn Colombia the second medal at the Beijing Olympics. Another bronze medal went to Tonya Verbeek of Canada.

Source: Xinhua

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1 China 27 12 6 45
2 USA 16 15 19 50
3 Germany 8 4 5 17
4 South Korea 6 9 3 18
5 Italy 6 5 4 15
6 Japan 6 4 4 14
7 Australia 5 7 10 22
8 Russia 4 4 8 20
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