IOC Women and Sport Award 

UWW Bureau Member Zhang Wins IOC Women and Sport Award 

By United World Wrestling Press

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY (February 3) -- United World Wrestling Bureau member and former-President of the Chinese Wrestling Federation Zhang Xia was awarded the 2021 IOC Women and Sport Award for Asia. She has been an advocate for change and a leader in increasing the participation of women in wrestling, refereeing and coaching in China and across the globe.   

"Winning this award means a lot to me, and I also feel more responsibility and mission," Zhang said. "In the future, I will work harder and devote myself to cultivating and discovering more high-level and high-quality female talents, and make greater contributions to the promotion of gender equality, the development of wrestling and the development of the Olympic movement."

As part of the award, Zhang will be receiving a trophy, certificate and the opportunity to apply for a Women and Sport Award project grant of up to USD 30,000. The grant is designed to support a project of the winner's choice that relates to one or more of the IOC’s Gender Equality and Inclusion focus areas (Participation, Leadership, Safe Sport, Portrayal, Resource Allocation).

The current vice-director of Beijing Sports Bureau, Zhang was the first-ever female wrestling world champion in the 53kg weight category at the 1991 World Championships and has officiated at the highest-ranking referee category since 2000. She performed her duty at four Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016), five Asian Games (2002-2018) and numerous UWW-sanctioned World Championships. She was awarded the Golden Whistle Award at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Over the years, Zhang encouraged greater gender parity among wrestling officials and together with the UWW Development and Refereeing Commission, two major programs were created targeting simultaneously elite and grassroots levels -- UWW Referee Scholarships for licensed elite female referees and Female Refereeing Education Course

Through these programs, over 300 young women were introduced to refereeing, and the number of licensed international elite-level female referees has reached a record growth of 28%, from 64 in 2018 to 82 in 2019.

In China, provincial referee clinics were held three times in 2017, three times in 2018 and five times in 2019. More than 50 women referees participated in these clinics and obtained national licenses. Two women referees successfully passed the exams and were promoted to the international refereeing level recently.

It was Zhang who promoted women referees in Asia with eight referees from Iran, China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea being promoted as international referees in 2018-2019, including former Olympic champions.

Promotion of women wrestlers, coaches
Zhang organized a coaches' clinic during China's 2019 National Championships held from May 24-26 in Qian’an province and ensured that 50 percent of the participants were female coaches,

China also hosted a women’s wrestling training camp where scholarships were offered to international women’s wrestling teams in 2018 and 2019:
− Women wrestling training camp (100+ foreign women wrestlers attended, 7 days), June 2018, Taiyuan
− Women wrestling training camp (20+ foreign women wrestlers attended, 14 days), December 2018, Beijing Olympic Center
− UWW women wrestling training camp (50+ foreign women wrestlers attended, 10 days), April 2019, Xi’an
− Women wrestling training camp (10+ foreign women wrestlers attended, 14 days), September 2019, Liao Ning
− Women wrestling training camp (10+ foreign women wrestlers attended, 14 days), December 2019, Beijing Olympic Center

The UWW Women’s Wrestling Ranking Series -- 2019 China Open -- was organized on June 22-23, in Taiyuan, China. Later, the 2019 Asian Championships were successfully organized on April 23-28, in Xi’an, China. Refereeing clinics and training camps for women were also organized together with UWW.

Zhang encouraged women involved in wrestling to take up leadership positions, as exemplified by the Olympic medallist SUN Yanan (CHN). With the guidance and support of Zhang, former world champion Sun, who won the UWW Best Woman Wrestler award in 2017, was elected a member of the UWW Athletes Commission in 2017. 

Initiating ‘Best Wrestlers of the Year’ Awards
The first edition of the Best Wrestlers Awards was organized in Beijing during the annual assembly of the Chinese Wrestling Federation, held from January 10 to 11, 2020. Top women wrestlers, including the 2019 World Championships silver medalist Ron Ningning, and others, were named as ‘Best Women Wrestler of the Year’.

Establishing wrestling training centers
Two international-level and four national-level training centers were established in 2017, that incorporate a holistic approach towards wrestling training. These centers not only provide complete and modern training facilities but also brings in the extensive expertise of their staff in the fields of nutrition, sports psychology, strength and conditioning.

In collaboration with UWW, two training centers were established in China.

− The Shandong Provincial Comprehensive Sports Training Centre, September 2017, in Jinan
− The UWW High-Performance Training Center, established in April 2019 in Beijing, China, located in the National Olympic Sport Centre, will provide better
training, recovery, scientific and living conditions for Asian and worldwide wrestlers at low costs.

In addition, national training centers for wrestling were established in Yunnan, Hainan, Shanxi and Sichuan provinces in China since 2020.


Makhmudov, coach put on clinics in rural Japan

By Ken Marantz

EHIME, Japan (December 4) --- After adding a second straight world title this year to his Olympic silver medal, Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) would surely be recognized on any street in Bishkek. Last month, he won over a new group fans in a rural prefecture of Japan, and may have even helped one to someday challenge him.

Makhmudov spent three days last month in Japan putting on wrestling clinics at the invitation of the Ehime Prefecture Wrestling Association along with his personal coach Meirambek AKHMETOV (KGZ), according to a story recently posted on the Japan Wrestling Federation website submitted by Masashi OCHI, secretary general of the association.

Makhmudov, who became Kyrgyzstan's first-ever male world champion when he won his first gold medal at Greco 77kg in 2022, also met with the Ehime Prefecture governor, did a little sightseeing, and got in some workouts as he prepares to start training in earnest for the Paris Olympics.

KGZAkzhol MAKHMUDOV, holding his world championship belt, and coach Meirambek AKHMETOV, 2n from left, meet with Ehime Prefecture Gov. Tokihiro NAKAMURA, 2n from right, and other officials. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation)

Makhudov impressed everyone involved with his sincerity, dedication and professionalism, Ochi wrote, and was just the type of role model the association wanted to present. Asked about the secret of his success in a question-and-answer session by a young wrestler, Makhmudov gave a heartfelt answer that shows he has never been one to cut corners.

"You know yourself what will be difficult for you, but if you keep at it and don't give up, you will definitely succeed," Makhmudov. "Please don't select the easy road. Your hard work will definitely pay off, so keep going. Anything you do -- wrestling, work, study -- do because you love, cherish your family, and listen to your coach. If you do these, everything will go well."

Ehime Prefecture, with a population of 1.3 million, is spread over 5,600 square kilometers on the northwestern coast of the southern island of Shikoku, across the Seto Inland Sea from Hiroshima. It is famous for its Japanese tangerines, known as "mikan," and its picturesque mountains and coastline. It has also produced some notable wrestlers of late.

The prefecture has established a program to promote youth sports, and the wrestling federation had the idea to invite a top foreign wrestler as a guest instructor. They consulted UWW-licensed referee Kuninori KOIKE, who contacted his acquaintance Akhmetov, who himself is now an international referee who  officiated at the Tokyo Games two years ago.

That set the wheels in motion, and Makhmudov and Akhmetov left Bishkek on Nov. 8 for the long journey to Japan via Almaty and Busan. They landed at Kansai International Airport in Osaka and spent the night in Tenri, Nara Prefecture, before taking a flight the next day from Osaka's Itami Airport to Matsuyama. about 270 kilometers to the west.

On the morning of Nov. 10, Makhmudov and Akhmetov paid a courtesy call on Gov. Tokihiro NAKAMURA in the prefectural capital of Matsuyama. That afternoon, the first clinic was held in the neighboring city of Imabari at Imabari Technical High School, with about 40 junior high and high schoolers from throughout Ehime Prefecture in attendance.

KGZ2Makhmudov and Japan's Greco 67kg champion Kyotaro SOGABE hit it off during the clinics and used the opportunity to spend some time practicing together. (Japan Wrestling Federation)

Helping out as special instructors were several distinguished alumni of Imabari high schools, including Kyotaro SOGABE, a 2022 world U23 bronze medalist at Greco 67kg, and Rin MIYAJI, the 2021 world silver medalist at women's 68kg. There was time set aside for instruction, drills and open sparring, with Koike serving as an interpreter.

On Saturday Nov. 11, Sogabe's coach at powerhouse Nippon Sports Science University, Shingo MATSUMOTO, joined the clinic. Matsumoto, the head coach of all three styles at the university, won nine straight national titles from 1999 to 2007 and appeared in two Olympics at Greco 84kg, finishing seventh at the 2004 Athens Games.

In the morning, Akhmetov taught techniques from the standing position in Greco. His experience working with Kyrgyzstan's youth team came through, Ochi noted, as he explained everything calmly and in great detail. Akhmetov said that Greco techniques need to be learned from a young age, and expressed surprise that most Japanese wrestlers do not become fully committed to Greco until they are in college. "Japanese wrestlers are physically fit, but lack technique," Akhmetov commented.

That afternoon, they became ambassadors of sorts for the sport at an event aimed at giving youngsters who had had little or no exposure to wrestling a chance to experience it. Held at the Ehime Prefectural Budokan in Matsuyama, Makhmudov led the prospective athletes in warm-ups, mat games and mini-matches. "Your stances when you tie up and your understanding the rules are fantastic," Makhudov commented.

KGZ1Participants in a clinic gather for a group photo with Makhmudov and Akhmetov. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation)

At the end, the children were allowed to ask Makhmudov some questions. Asked what he pays most attention to in regard to being a professional athlete, he replied, "I only eat things that are good for my body."

The third and final "Makhmudov Camp" on Nov. 12 was held at Hojo High School in Matsuyama, where Akhmetov focused on throws from standing and both offense and defense in par terre. He could be heard yelling out "Combination!" a number of times. The clinic was not limited to Greco, and the few girls in the group fervently went through the drills.

Meanwhile, Makhmudov and Sogabe had really hit things off with each other, and worked together on techniques and did some sparring. The 45-year-old Matsumoto even got in on the act and went toe-to-toe with Makhmudov, drawing the eyes of everyone in the room. Ten years before Makhmudov won his first of his three Asian titles at the age of 18 before a delirious crowd in Bishkek in 2018, Matsumoto added a gold at the Asian Championships to his two silver medals in one of his final competitions.

During the three days, Makmudov impressed his hosts with a regimen of exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient rest. He said he has promised to refrain from drinking until after the Olympics. "He is the consummate pro," said one official.

KGZMakhmudov strikes a warrior pose in a samurai helmet and armor at Matsuyama Castle. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation)

Makhmudov also found time to visit one of Ehime's main tourist attractions, Matsuyama Castle, which was built in 1603 and has been designated a National Historic Site. There he donned a samurai helmet and armor for a commemorative photo while "assuming a warrior pose," as Ochi describes it. At a souvenir shop nearby, he was treated to Ehime mikan juice which comes directly out of a faucet.

On the last day of the clinics, Makhmudov bid farewell to the participants by saying, "Let's meet again at the Asian Championships or Olympics. Thank you." Even with Japan's Nao KUSAKA also having qualified at Greco 77kg, Makhmudov will certainly have some supporters in a small pocket of southern Japan.