Icho Dealt Stunning Loss in Asian 57kg Semis; Lone Japanese Woman to Fail to Make Finals

By Ken Marantz

XI’AN, China (April 26)—The notion that four-time Olympic champion Kaori ICHO (JPN) would be the lone Japanese woman to fail to make the finals at the Asian Championships might have defied credulity.

But fact can sometimes be stranger than fiction, and a fearless opponent with a lightning-quick takedown made the incredible happen during the morning session on Day 4 of the six-day tournament in Xi’an.

Asian Games champion JONG Myong Suk (PRK) dominated Icho from the beginning of their 57kg semifinal bout, scoring all of her points in the first period before holding on for a 7-4 victory.

“Her takedown from tying up was really good,” Icho told about a dozen members of the Japanese press, who came specifically to see the national star in her first international tournament since the Rio 2016 Olympics. 

“She’s a young athlete, and I figured she would be on the attack from the first period, so I had that in mind. But my reactions were dull.”

Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) is one of four Japanese women who'll compete in the Day 4 finals. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN), the world champion at 55kg who has dropped to the Olympic weight of 53kg, was one of four Japanese who advanced to the finals in the five divisions.

That followed a strong showing on the previous day, when the Japanese women sent all five wrestlers into the finals and came away with three golds and two silvers. 

The possibility of a clash between Icho and RONG Ningning (CHN) was one of the featured aspects heading into the tournament at Xidian University’s Invengo Gymnasium, but instead it will be Jong who will face the Chinese world champion for the gold medal.

Icho has relied heavily on her defense to accumulate an extensive gold collection, but Jong, a world bronze medalist at 55kg, used her speed to breakthrough and secure leg holds. She scored two takedowns, following the first with a roll and then a stepout to lead 7-1 after the first period.

Icho got a takedown with a minute to go, then received a penalty point for fleeing with :17 left to account for the final score. 

“In this match, she was not competing fully,” DPR Korea coach YUN Tong Gon said of Jong through a translator. “If she went fully 100 percent, she would have won by fall or 10 points.”

Icho, who will be wrestling for a bronze medal in the night session, got her day off to an ominous start when she had a tooth broken during her 10-0 technical fall victory in the quarterfinals over UM Jieun (KOR).

 Icho, a 10-time world champion who turns 35 in June, won the last of her five Asian titles in 2015. She accepted the loss with dignity and looks at it as part of the process in her bid to win an unprecedented fifth gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“I couldn’t finish off my attack and my defense was weak,” she said. “This time, this was all about experience. I have to make use of that.”  

At 53kg, Mukaida fell behind early in her semifinal with world bronze medalist PANG Qianyu, but scored eight unanswered points in the second period to win 10-4. 

Earlier, Mukaida overwhelmed Asian Games champion Vinesh VINESH (IND) with a one-sided 10-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals. Vinesh had won the 50kg gold a year ago in Bishkek. 

In the final, Mukaida will try to avoid the same fate as Icho as she takes on another highly touted DPR Korean, defending champion and Asian Games gold medalist PAK Yongmi (PRK). 

Yukako KAWAI (JPN) edged MUN Hyon Gyong (PRK), 5-4 in the semifinals and will wrestle in the 62kg gold-medal bout against Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ). (Photo: Gabor Martin)

World silver medalist Yukako KAWAI (JPN) survived a scare of her own in the 62kg semifinals, scoring a takedown with :10 left to defeat MUN Hyon Gyong (PRK), 5-4. 

In the quarterfinals, Mun knocked off PEI Xingru (CHN), a world bronze medalist and the 2018 Asian champion at 57kg. 

“As you see, we also won matches with the Chinese,” DPR Korea coach Tong said. “We have confidence of winning at the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Kawai, the world U23 champion, will go for the gold against Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ), a 2017 world bronze medalist who won the silver at the Asian Games. 

Naomi RUIKE (JPN) gets her hand raised after her semifinal win over Mongolia's Bolortungalag ZORIG. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

The two other finals will each see a Japanese teenager, with college freshman Naomi RUIKE (JPN) making it at 65kg and high schooler Yuzuka KAGAMI (JPN) advancing at 72kg.

Ruike, who posted 10-0 technical fall victories in both of her matches, will take on LUO Xiaojuan (CHN), who will aim to improve on her silver-medal finish at 62kg in 2018. 

Two-time world cadet champion Kagami will look to add the Asian gold to the Klippan Lady bronze she won earlier this year when she faces JEONG Seoyeon (KOR).

Kagami twice showed the poise of a veteran as she had to rally in both of her preliminary matches to make the final. She got a stepout with :17 to beat 76kg Klippan champion WANG Juan 2-1, then scored an equally late takedown for a 2-2 win over Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) in the semifinals. 

Day 4 results

Women’s wrestling

53kg (11 entries)
Gold – PAK Yongmi (PRK) v Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN)
Bronze – Akienge KEUNIMJAEVA (UZB) v KIM Hyungjoo (KOR)
Bronze – Vinesh VINESH (IND) v PANG Qianyu (CHN)

PAK Yongmi (PRK) df. KIM Hyungjoo (KOR) by Fall, 2:58 (6-0)
Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) df. PANG Qianyu (CHN), 10-4

57kg (10 entries)
Gold – JONG Myong Suk (PRK) v RONG Ningning (CHN)
Bronze – Thi My Trang NGUYEN (VIE) v Kaori ICHO (JPN)
Bronze – Tserenchimed SUKHEE (MGL) v Pooja DHANDA (IND)

JONG Myong Suk (PRK) df. Kaori ICHO (JPN), 7-4
RONG Ningning (CHN) df. Pooja DHANDA (IND), 8-4

62kg (12 entries)
Gold – Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) v Yukako KAWAI (JPN)
Bronze – Nabira ESENBAEVA (UZB) v Salinee SRISOMBAT (THA)
Bronze – Sakshi MALIK (IND) v MUN Hyon Gyong (PRK) 

Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) df. Salinee SRISOMBAT (THA) by Fall, 1:52 (8-0)
Yukako KAWAI (JPN) df. MUN Hyon Gyong (PRK), 5-4 

65kg (8 entries)
Gold – LUO Xiaojuan (CHN) v Naomi RUIKE (JPN)
Bronze – Sakhipjamal ALEUATDINOVA (UZB) v Bolortungalag ZORIGT (MGL)

LUO Xiaojuan (CHN) df. Aina TEMIRTASSOVA (KAZ) by Fall, 3:49 (10-1)
Naomi RUIKE (JPN) df. Bolortungalag ZORIGT (MGL) by TF, 11-0, 4:41

72kg (8 entries)
Gold – JEONG Seoyeon (KOR) v Yuka KAGAMI (JPN)
Bronze – Li Chia-Hsin (TPE) v Nilufar GADAEVA (UZB)
Bronze – WANG Juan (CHN) v Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ)

JEONG Seoyeon (KOR) df. Nilufar GADAEVA (UZB) by TF, 12-2 
Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) df. Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ), 2-2


Bakhramov Matches Brother as Asian Greco Champion; Geraei, Abdvali Also Strike Gold Among Siblings

By Ken Marantz

XI’AN, China (April 28)—Having seen his younger brother win a gold medal the day before, Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) did what comes naturally to a sibling. Wanting what he has.

Bakhramov made it two golds in the family when he captured the 60kg title as the Asian Championships finished up with competition in five Greco-Roman finals on the sixth and final day in Xi’an.

Bakhramov defeated RI Se Ung (PRK) by a 12-4 technical fall, avenging a loss in the semifinals at last year’s Asian Championships in Bishkek, where he had to settle for a bronze medal. 

It also gave Uzbekistan a second gold medal after younger brother Ilkhom captured the 55kg title the previous day.

“Two brothers in one sport is very excellent,” Bakhramov said. “We motivate each other. If the younger brother wins a medal, why shouldn’t the older brother also win? If he wins, I must win.”

Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) celebrates after winning the 72kg gold medal with a 5-0 win over China's ZHANG Hujun. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

Meanwhile, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) and Saeid ABDVALI (IRI)—who also had brothers competing in Xi’an, both of whom won bronze medals—cruised to the 72kg and 82kg titles, respectively, to help Iran capture the team championship by just two points ahead of Uzbekistan.

The title race came down to the final match of the tournament, and a 3-2 victory by Uzur DZHUZUPBEKOV (KGZ) over Jahongir TURDIEV (UZB) in the 97kg final left Uzbekistan two points short of Iran, which won with 165 after securing four golds and three bronzes. 

Kazakhstan was third with 134 points, mainly on the strength of six bronze medals.

Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) tosses RI Se Ung (PRK) in the 60kg gold-medal bout. The Uzbekistan wrestler reached the top of the podium with a 12-4 victory. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

In a never-a-dull moment 60kg final, Bakhramov got the advantage first in the par terre position and executed a roll for a 3-0 lead. But Ri, who knocked off 2017 world champion Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) and world bronze medalist Sailike WALIHAN (CHN) en route to the final, came back with a 2-point back drop.

Bakhramov replied with a twisting head lock for two points, but Ri struck back with a 2-point head lock throw to cut the gap to 5-4. 

In the second period, the Uzbeki padded his lead with a takedown and 1-point leg-grab penalty. With the seconds ticking down, Ri made a last-ditch leap for a score, but landed on his back, giving Bakhramov four points and the technical fall at the buzzer.

“Last time I didn’t know him, what moves he would do,” Bakhramov said. “This time I was ready absolutely. I trained very well and was completely ready for this championships.”

For Ilkhom Bakhramov, seeing his older brother’s success only doubled the pleasure of his own.

“Yesterday when I won the [gold] medal, I was really happy,” he said. “But it was like 50 percent. Today, my brother also won, so that’s why it’s 100 percent. I was shouting and jumping.”

Geraei, who was third at the Asian Games last summer in Jakarta, earned his first Asian title with a solid 5-0 victory over ZHANG Hujun (CHN) in the 72kg final. 

Geraei, whose older brother Mohammadali was third at 77kg on Saturday, scored a takedown in each period and was never really put in danger. 

Saeid ABDVALI (IRI) shutout India's Singh HARPEET, 8-0 to win the 82kg gold medal. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

Abdvali, a former world champion and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, was even more dominant in putting away Singh HARPEET (IND) by 8-0 technical fall in 3:54, scoring two takedowns and four stepouts.

“My program to prepare for this championships was five months,” said Abdvali, who won all three of his matches by technical falls without surrendering a point to add a first Asian title to two Asian Games crowns. “At the competition, I was strong and ready.”

Advali said younger brother Saman, a bronze medalist at 63kg, had his chance for gold, too. “He made a mistake and that caused him to lose,” he said.

Uzur DZHUZUPBEKOV (KGZ) celebrates after scoring the 3-2 win over Jahongir TURDIEV (UZB) in the 97kg gold-medal match. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

In the 97kg final, Dzhuzupbekov, who was third at both the Asian Championships and Asian Games last year, managed to roll Turdiev from the par terre position a minute into the second period to take a 3-1 lead, then held on for the victory.

RYU Hansu (KOR) used a four-point move to top Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ), 5-1 in the final at 67kg. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

The other title at stake on the final night at Xidian University’s Invengo Gymnasium went to RYU Hansu (KOR), who scored with a 4-point move with :46 left in the 67kg final to top world bronze medalist Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ), 5-1.

With the wrestlers tied at 1-1 from passivity points, Ryu secured a body lock from the side, then twisted Shermakhanbet backwards and down for the big-point move that secured his third Asian gold.  

“It’s something that I practice all the time,” said Ryu, a two-time Asian Games champion and 2017 world champion. “It came natural to me because I have done it so many times.”

Host China, which finished 10 points behind Kazakhstan in the team standings, ended on a positive note with three wrestlers taking bronze medals: ZHANG Gaoquan (CHN) at 67kg, QIAN Haitao (CHN) at 87 kg and XIAO Di (CHN) at 97kg. 

Japan came away with a pair of bronzes from Fumita at 60kg and Shogo TAKAHASHI (JPN) at 67kg. Fumita, the 2017 world and Asian champion, won without a fight as Walihan defaulted their bronze-medal match due to a shoulder injury. 

One of the more exciting matches of the evening program was a come-from-behind victory by Maxat YEREZHEPOV (KAZ) in an 82kg bronze-medal match.

Trailing Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) 5-0, Yerezhepov was in the process of being lifted for a roll, when he suddenly clamped down on his opponent’s arm to send him to his back and win by an unlikely fall at 2:02.

Day 6 results


60kg (12 entries)

Gold – Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) df. RI Se Ung (PRK) by TF, 12-4, 6:00
Bronze – Gyanender GYANENDER (IND) df. HUANG Jui Chi (TPE) by TF, 9-0, 2:45
Bronze – Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) df. Sailike WALIHAN (CHN) by Default

67kg (14 entries)
Gold – RYU Hansu (KOR) df. Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ), 5-1
Bronze – ZHANG Gaoquan (CHN) df. Abdulkarim AL HASAN (SYR), 7-0
Bronze – Shogo TAKAHASHI (JPN) df. Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB), 5-2

72kg (9 entries)
Gold – Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) df. ZHANG Hujun (CHN), 5-0 
Bronze – Ruslan TSAREV (KGZ) df. Yogesh YOGESH (IND) by TF, 8-0, 1:12 
Bronze – Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) df. Aram VARDANYAN (UZB)  by Fall, 2:29 (3-2)

82kg (9 entries)
Gold – Saeid ABDVALI (IRI) df. Singh HARPEET (IND) by TF, 8-0, 3:54
Bronze – Maxat YEREZHEPOV (KAZ) df. Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) by Fall, 2:02 (2-5)
Bronze – QIAN Haitao (CHN) df. Burgo BEISHALIEV (KGZ) by TF, 9-0, 3:29 

97kg (9 entries)
Gold – Uzur DZHUZUPBEKOV (KGZ) df. Jahongir TURDIEV (UZB), 3-2
Bronze – XIAO Di (CHN) df. LEE Seyeol (KOR), 1-1 
Bronze – Mahdi ALIYARIFEIZABADI (IRI) df. Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ), 4-2

Team Standings
1. Iran 165 points (4 gold-0 silver-3 bronze)
2. Uzbekistan 163 (2-3-1)
3. Kazakhstan 134 (0-1-6)