#JapanWrestling

Japan star Kawai announces birth of first child

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO (May 12)---Japanese star Risako KAWAI (JPN), who has not competed since winning a second straight Olympic title last summer in Tokyo, made a surprising announcement on Instagram that she had recently given birth to her first child.

The 27-year-old Kawai, a three-time world champion who won the Tokyo Olympic gold at 57kg, wrote that she had given birth to a girl on May 10. The baby's name and other details were not included.

Kawai expressed her gratitude to the doctors and medical staff who took her from pregnancy to childbirth and the many people who provided support, adding, "From now, everything I face will be an unknown to me, but I want to grow as a person along with my family."

Kawai's victory in Tokyo came a day after younger sister Yukako won the 62kg title, and the golden sister combination exponentially enhanced their national notoriety. The two became regular guests on talk shows and variety shows, milking the opportunity for all it was worth.

But neither has returned to competition since, and for Risako, the reason has become clear.

Just under a month after her Olympic triumph, Kawai announced on Aug. 27 that she had married Kiryu KINJO (JPN), a former wrestler with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. The two had been going together for five years, and she credited him with motivating her and helping her capture a second Olympic title.

The two are living in Fukui Prefecture, where Kinjo is now a teacher and wrestling coach at his alma mater of Tsuruga Kehi High School. They made no announcement of the pregnancy, and Kawai reportedly returned to her home in neighboring Ishikawa Prefecture to give birth, which is common in Japan.

Kawai, who won the 63kg gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had a tough road to winning again in Tokyo. By moving down to 57kg, it put her on a collision course with four-time Olympic champion Kaori ICHO (JPN).

The two went head-to-head four times during the qualifying process that drew world attention, with Kawai winning three times and eventually earning a place on Japan's team to the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan, where she won her third straight world gold and clinched a berth at the Tokyo Olympics.

At a ceremony at the All-Japan Championships last December to honor Japan's Olympic medalists, Kawai expressed her intention to attempt to win a third Olympic title at the 2024 Paris Games.

"I will be 30 years old the year of the Paris [Olympics]," Kawai said at the time. "I'll probably have to put up with more injuries, so I will keep that in mind. I'm going to practice so I can be ready to come back any time. I want to set my goals while keeping tabs on my physical condition."

As expected, the recent birth has kept Kawai out of the upcoming All-Japan Invitational Championships in June, which in turn rules her out of this year's World Championships in Belgrade. Kawai's name was not on the list of entries released Friday by the Japan Wrestling Federation for the tournament, which is the second domestic qualifier for the worlds. 

Sankei Sports, citing an unnamed source, reported that Kawai will aim for the All-Japan Championships in December, which will be the first step in the qualifying process for the Paris Olympics. That tournament will serve as the first qualifier for 2023 World Championships, where the first berths for Paris 2024 will be awarded.

The sports daily said that Kawai's mother Hatsue--a two-time national champion during her wrestling days--will help in taking care of the baby, freeing up time for Risako to train.

Unlike in the past, motherhood is no longer a barrier keeping a woman from continuing their career in sports. Among top wrestlers, four-time Olympic medalist Mariya STADNIK (AZE) has a boy and girl, and Tokyo bronze medalist Vanessa KALADZINSKAYA (BLR) has a son. Adeline GRAY (USA), who won a sixth world title last year in Oslo, is expecting twins.

#WrestleElJadida

Egypt rides on four golds to win African Championships title

By Vinay Siwach

EL JADIDA, Morocco (May 22) -- For a second straight day, Egypt and Algeria were involved in a thrilling team title race at the African Championships.

Egypt, after winning the Greco-Roman team title Saturday by one point, pipped Algeria for the freestyle team title as the continental championships came to a close in El Jadida.

Egypt finished with 195 points to finish at the top while Algeria had 178 points. South Africa finished with 93 points to claim the third position.

The two nations were tied for gold medals at four apiece but wrestlers from Egypt reached the medal bout in all 10 weight classes while Algeria finished the opportunity at 57kg and had no entry in 125kg which hurt them the most.

Mostafa ELDERS (EGY)Mostafa ELDERS (EGY) won the 97kg gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Bayrem Ben Mrad)

In a crucial gold medal bout, Mostafa ELDERS (EGY) defeated U20 world bronze medalist Nicolaas DE LANGE (RSA) 7-0 at 97kg despite starting as the underdog.

De Lange was expected to win his first gold at African Championships but Elders had different ideas. He began with a quick takedown and roll to lead 4-0. De Lange went for Elders' leg on multiple occasions but could not finish a single move. The Egypt wrestler led 5-0 at the break.

Elders shifted to defense in the second period and De Lange found it extremely difficult to score. He was for fleeing during a stepout which gave a tiring Elders two more points. He managed to play out the remaining time on the clock to seal the team title for Egypt.

In another high-stake final, Tokyo Olympian Amr Reda RAMADAN (EGY) clinched his second African title by winning the gold medal at 74kg. In a bout he was expected to win comfortably, Ramadan trailed junior African champion Adelkader IKKAL (ALG) 5-1 after two minutes. 

Ikkal tried to shoot for Ramadan's legs numerous times in the second period but ended up giving up points which proved to be his undoing. Ramadan scored eight straight points on counters to win 9-5.

At 125kg, Youssif HEMIDA (EGY) made a mockery of his competition in the nordic bracket. With only three wrestlers entered, Hemida scored 11-0 wins over Anas LAMKABBER (MAR) and Hamza RAHMANI (TUN) to clinch the gold medal.

The former U23 World silver medalist, who trains in the USA, showed the gulf in the class in wrestling as Lamkabber and Rahmani looked out of sorts on the mat.

The fourth gold for Egypt came at 57kg as Gamal MOHAMED (EGY) held off Ebikewenimo WELSON (NGR), 5-0 in the final. In a controlled bout, Mohamed got the first point for Welson's passivity to lead 1-0 at the break.

He scored a takedown in the second period and wait for the clock to expire while fending off Welson's attacks. He got another takedown at the end off a desperate attack by Welson.

For Algeria, Tokyo Olympian Fateh BENFERDJALLAH (ALG) won his first senior African gold medal with a 6-2 win over Mahmoud BADAWI (EGY). He scored all of his six points in the first period while giving up two in the second.

The 21-year-old continues to improve at the senior level after qualifying Algeria for the Tokyo Olympics last year. The top seed in El Jadida began the tournament with an 11-0 win before pinning Edward LESSING (RSA) in the semifinal.

Mohammed FARDJ (ALG)Mohammed FARDJ (ALG) defended his 92kg gold at the African Championships. (Photo: UWW / Bayrem Ben Mrad)

Another Olympian who won the gold for Algeria was Mohammed FARDJ (ALG). Unlike Benferdjallah, Fardj displayed a dominating performance in the 92kg final against Imed KADDIDI (TUN). He won 11-0 to defend his title.

He outscored his opponents 34-0 over three bouts in what was a stunning performance throughout the day.

The fourth gold medal for Algeria was won by Chems FETAIRIA (ALG) who defeated Youssef AIT BOULAHRI (MAR), 13-3 in the 79kg final to win his first African title.

A trip and gut wrench gave Fetairia four points but Boulahri also got two for holding Fetairia in danger in the same sequence as the score read 4-3. But Fetairia launched a suplex in the first period for four before a match ending four-pointer in the second period.

79kg was also the weight where Mauritius won their first freestyle medal in 20 years. Jean STE MARIE (MRI), who lost to Boulahri 14-12 in the semifinal, defeated Donald MABUSELA (RSA), 12-2 in the bronze medal bout to end his country's 22-year wait for a freestyle medal.

The remaining two gold medals were captured by Guinea-Bissau as Mbunde CUMBA MBALI (GBS) claimed the 65kg title while Bacar NDUM (GBS) won the gold at 70kg by defeated Algerian opponents.

In the 65kg final, defending champion Cumba Mbali scored three points in the first period against Chouaib SAHRAOUI (ALG) and went into a shell. He was warned for passivity but that only cost him one point. He hung on for a 3-1 win and his third straight African Championships title.

Ndum was more dominant as he defeated Rami BRINIS (ALG), 9-0 in the 70kg final to become a first-time African champion.

Ndum's run in El Jadida included two technical superiority wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal before he maintained the clean slate in the final as well.

Another star from the country, Tokyo Olympian Diamantino IUNA FAFE (GBS) suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Welson in the 57kg semifinal. But he bounced back to claim the bronze medal with a 10-0 win over Rabby KILANDI (COD).

Freestyle Results

57kg
GOLD: Gamal MOHAMED (EGY) df. Ebikewenimo WELSON (NGR), 5-0 

BRONZE: Omar FAYE (SEN) df. Jakobo TAU (RSA), 18-11
BRONZE: Diamantino IUNA FAFE (GBS) df. Rabby KILANDI (COD), 10-0

61kg
GOLD: Abdelhak KHERBACHE (ALG) df. Shehabeldin MOHAMED (EGY), 3-0 

BRONZE: Sofiane EL KHAMER (MAR) df. Jordan Ngalula KABONGO (COD), 10-0
BRONZE: Awene DIATTA (SEN) df. Kenneth KOECH (KEN), 10-0 

65kg
GOLD: Mbunde CUMBA MBALI (GBS) df. Chouaib SAHRAOUI (ALG), 3-1

BRONZE: Yehia HAFEZ (EGY) df. Jason AFRIKANER (NAM), 4-3
BRONZE: Otmane EL BAHJA (MAR) df. Raby BAPELEKIA (CGO), 8-7

70kg
GOLD: Bacar NDUM (GBS) df. Rami BRINIS (ALG), 9-0

BRONZE: Mohamed ZORGUI (TUN) df. Anthony WESLEY (CPV), 11-0
BRONZE: Said ELGAHSH (EGY) df. Guy LAGO (CIV), 2-1

74kg
GOLD: Amr HUSSEN (EGY) df. Abdelkader IKKAL (ALG), 9-5

BRONZE: Arno VAN ZIJL (RSA) df. Mamadou DIOUF (SEN), 2-0
BRONZE: Ogbonna JOHN (NGR) df. Brian OLOO (KEN), 10-0 

79kg
GOLD: Chems FETAIRIA (ALG) df. Youssef AIT BOULAHRI (MAR), 13-3

BRONZE: Jean STE MARIE (MRI) df. Donald MABUSELA (RSA), 12-2
BRONZE: Andy MUKENDI (COD) df. Karim ELDOBAY (EGY), 12-6

86kg
GOLD: Fateh BENFERDJALLAH (ALG) df. Mahmoud BADAWI (EGY), 6-2

BRONZE: Ekerekeme AGIOMOR (NGR) df. Sabri MNASRIA (TUN), 9-0
BRONZE: Edward LESSING (RSA) df. Barthelemy TSHOSHA (COD), 8-1

92kg
GOLD: Mohammed FARDJ (ALG) df. Imed KADDIDI (TUN), 11-0

BRONZE: Machiel GROBLER (RSA) df. Timothee TOE (BUR), via forfeit
BRONZE: Noureldin HASSAN (EGY) df. Ahmed SEREHALI (MAR) , 10-0

97kg
GOLD: Mostafa ELDERS (EGY) df. Nicolaas DE LANGE (RSA) , 7-0

BRONZE: Ulrich MANOUAN (CIV) df. John FOLANE (BUR), via forfeit
BRONZE: Mohamed SAADAOUI (TUN) df. Abderrahmane BENACHA (ALG), 10-0

125kg 
GOLD: Youssif HEMIDA (EGY)
SILVER: Anas LAMKABBER (MAR)
BRONZE: Hamza RAHMANI (TUN)

Key match: Youssif HEMIDA (EGY) df. Anas LAMKABBER (MAR), 11-0 (Round 2)