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Preview: Japan aims gold-sweep in women's wrestling
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17:01, August 15, 2008

Women's wrestling is going to make its second appearance in Olympic Games as freestyle 48kg and 55kg matches will start on Saturday.

Japanese female wrestlers Chiahru Icho and Saori Yoshida will struggle to take golds as their male athletes failed to earn a single medal in previous seven categories of Greco-Roman wrestling.

Icho, 27, was the winner of last two world championships in 48kg category but her memory in Athens Games still hurt. She lost to Ukrainian Irini Merlini in the final. Merlini took off the 2006 season and cameback in 2007, finishing second in world championships in Baku, defeated by the arch-rival Icho.

Host wrestler Li Xiaomei finished third in Baku and is also a possible medalist. Newcomer Li made her debut in Olympic Games by replacing her teammate Ren Xueceng, who was the 2005 world champion.

Vetaran Clarissa Chun defeated Athens bronze medalist Patricia Miranda in the Olympic team trials to represent the United States in 48kg category. Chun was a Pan American Championships gold medalist in 2008.

The women's 55kg wrestling will be only one wrestler's personal show, that is Saori Yoshida of Japan. The defending champion Yoshida enters as a strong favorite. The five-time world champion dominated the sport since seven years ago and had never been defeated until this year's World Cup in Taiyuan, China.

American Marcie van Dusen took the advantage while Yoshida was catching a cold then and ended the top star's undefeated record, which also broke Yoshida's goal of finishing her career without a loss on the senior level.

Canadian Tonya Verbeek is also looking forward to going further as she was silver medalist in 2004 Olympic Games. Verbeek beat van Dusen in the final of 2008 Pan American Championships to qualify to Beijing Games.

The 19-year-old Xu Li may bring surprises to Chinese spectators as she finished third in 2008 Asian Championships.


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