#WrestleOslo Day Four Preview: WW 50kg, 53kg, 65kg and 76kg

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (September 21) -- It may be missing the latest Olympic champion Aline FOCKEN (GER) but the 76kg weight class in women's wrestling at the Oslo World Championships promises to be another minefield for the competitors as four Olympic medalist including a former champion are wrestling on October 5 in Oslo, Norway. A young force of wrestlers will aim to show their dominance in Oslo as Wednesday will give them an opportunity to claim the world titles.

Tokyo Olympics silver medalist and five-time defending world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) will lead the field which will also has fellow Tokyo medalist Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ). Rio Olympic bronze medalist Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) is also entered.

Gray become the first US wrestler in all styles to win the World Championships five times and she will be looking to defend the gold she won in Nursultan in Oslo. In Tokyo, she won the silver medal after falling to Focken in a close final. Focken announced her retirement after winning the medal.

Kyzy and Gray faced each other in the semifinal of the Tokyo Olympics and the American managed to pull off a late score to beat the Kyrgyzstan wrestler. A highly anticipated rematch between the two looks a big possibility and could well be the match of the tournament in women's wrestling.

But Wiebe, who suffered an opening round loss at the Olympics, will look to bounce back and try to win a World Championships medal. The Canadian has suffered some unexpected losses since the quarterfinal loss to Epp MAEE (EST) at the 2019 World Championships. It was again Maee who defeated her in Tokyo in the opening round ending her Olympic defence. Oslo will offer her an opportunity to make a comeback and make a run for Paris in 2024.

Even Maee will look to put the disappointment of Tokyo behind her. The senior European champion lost to Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) in the quarterfinals and failed to progress further as the Japanese lost her next bout. With a number of wrestlers missing from Oslo, Maee can lay claim to the title.

Kazakhstan veteran Syzdykova is another wrestler trying to win a World medal. Since her bronze in Rio, she has not been able to keep up the performance but a gold at the Asian Championships earlier this year in Almaty have rekindled her career.

Sarah HildebrandtSarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)

On the same day, the lightest weight class in women's wrestling 50kg will also be in action and all eyes will be on Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Sarah Hilderbrandt. It's an opportunity to win a world title in the same year as the Olympic medal and with other three medalists from Tokyo missing, the USA wrestler is the biggest contender. Her exceptional run at the Olympics saw her reach the semifinal where she was leading Sun YANAN (CHN) but the latter hit a front headlock late in the bout to win. Hilderbrandt has a silver medal at the Worlds from 2018 and three years later she has a chance to get one step further.

Trying to stop her from doing that will be Miglena SELISHKA (BUL) who won the gold medal at the 2020 European Championships and faced the USA wrestler in the quarterfinal of Tokyo Olympics. Hilderbrandt notched up a stunning 12-2 win and advanced to the semifinal. Selishka will now try to reverse that result if the two face each other in Oslo.

Another of Hilderbrandt's victim in Tokyo was Evin DEMIRHAN (TUR) who lost to her in the first round. The USA wrestler scored a 11-0 shut out win. The Turkey wrestler will be eyeing her first World medal.

Three of world's best 50kg wrestler have decided to skip the event. Tokyo Olympic champion Yui SUSAKI (JPN) and four-time Olympic medalist Maria STADNIK (AZE) will not be there is Oslo, putting an break on their fancied rivalry. Yanan, who won silver in Tokyo, will also be missing the event as the whole Chinese contingent has decided to give it a miss.

Japan will enter Remina YOSHIMOTO (JPN) who has won gold at cadet World and Asian Championships and will be under tremendous pressure on her international Worlds debut and keep the gold in her country in the absence of Susaki.

Another former cadet world champion and U23 world finalist Nadezhda SOKOLOVA (RWF) will also be challenging her more accomplished opponents. Sokolova has been on the fringes of the national team for quite some time now but this is her first major break given that Russia in a transition phase after Tokyo Olympics. She recently won gold at the Alexander Medved tournament in Belarus.

Akari FujinamiAkari FUJINAMI (JPN) will be Japan's representative at 53kg in Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The second Olympic weight class that will be in action on Wednesday will be 53kg and it awaits the senior debut of Japan's much talked about star Akari FUJINAMI (JPN).

In May, Fujinami won the All Japan Championships to qualify for Oslo. The 2017 cadet world champion earned the spot with a 10-0 technical fall win in the final over Nanami IRIE (JPN), the 2019 world silver medalist at 55kg, in a repeat of the gold-medal match at the Emperor's Cup.

"It gives me some boost of confidence, but looking at the world, I feel I need to get much stronger," Fujinami had said after her victory in May. "Many issues that need to be addressed came out, and heading to the World Championships, I will have to practice harder."

That was not the only high profile win for her as she won the semifinal 11-2 over two-time former world champion Haruna OKUNO (JPN),  who has been trying to work out of a slump after losing out on the Olympic spot at 53kg to Mayu MUKAIDA.

Fujinami, who stands at 1.63 meters, has not lost since June 2017, when she was defeated in the final of the national junior high school championships to Umi ITO (JPN), who placed second on Thursday at 50kg.

But the youngster will face tough challenge from Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) and 2021 junior world champion Emma MALMGREN (SWE). Bat Ochir reached the semifinal in Tokyo but lost to eventual champion Mukaida. Then she defeated Joseph ESSOMBE (CMR) in the bronze medal match. She is now Mongolia's second ever Olympic medalist.

Malmgren will look to repeat her performance from Ufa, Russia as she won the world title in stunning fashion. The compact Malmgren has been performing at the senior level but has not registered significant results. But at the junior Worlds, she managed to overcome most opponents including a strong Moldovan in the final, winning 7-3. Malmgren, who trains at Helsingborg which has given Sweden multiple World medalists and Olympians, will now be hoping to step up at the senior level.

Irina RINGACIIrina RINGACI (MDA) and Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) are both entered at 65kg for Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Dogukan Karadag)

The final weight class on Wednesday is 65kg which will be a mix of experience and youth. Rio Olympic silver medalist Maryia MAMASHUK (BLR) will lead the field with Tokyo Olympians Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) and Kriszta INCZE (ROU).

2021 junior world champion Irina RINGACI (MDA) and 2020 Individual World Cup champion Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) are also entered for the competition. Japan is sending Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN), a junior world champion from 2019.

Mamashuk failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but will be a force to reckon at the Oslo Worlds. She won the 2021 Alexander Medved tournament but before that she had struggled to pull off results at major tournaments.

Manolova and Hritsova wrestled at the 68kg weight class in Tokyo while Incze wrestled at 62kg. Manolova lost to Blessing OBRUDUDU (NGR), the silver medalist, in the opening round and later to Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) in the repechage round. Her on and off performances at the international level make her a dark horse in Oslo but a lot will depend on her draw. Hritsova is also in a similar situation and it will be a wait-and-watch as she tries to win a World medal. She lost to Zhumanazarova in the open round in Tokyo.

Incze too has failed to win a medal at the World Championships despite winning medals at the European Championships and Games. She lost to Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) in the quarterfinal and later to Anastasija GRIGORJEVA (LAT) in the repechage rounds.

Ringaci and Rizhko will be resuming their fierce rivalry in Oslo and the two has exchanged finals at the 2020 Individual World Cup and senior European Championships in 2021. Ringaci won the final in Warsaw while it was Rizhko who won in Belgrade.

Ringaci has been part of Moldova's strong female contingent for some time but did not have any world title. But in August, she had a run of her life in Ufa, Russia to win the gold and claim her first one. In Oslo, she can well be on the part to claim her second one and first senior-level World gold. Rizhko on the other hand lost the senior Euros but won the U23 European gold.


What's the driving force behind Vlasov's attempt to win a third Olympic title?

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 9) -- Roman VLASOV (RWF) was denied a chance to go for a third Olympic gold earlier this year, but made sure he would not miss out on his shot at winning a third world title.

Vlasov chalked up a meticulous and hard-fought 2-1 victory over ‘20 European champion Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) to take the 77kg at October’s World Championships in Oslo.

"I was super tired, I couldn't even celebrate as I usually do," Vlasov said. "I left all my power and energy on the mat."

Prior to the Tokyo snub, Vlasov considered ending his career. But the desire to achieve his dream of matching the legendary Alexander KARELIN (RWF) with three Olympic golds inspired him to reset his sights for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Like his hero and son’s god father, Karelin, Vlasov is a native of Novosibirsk in southwestern Siberia and was mentored by the great coach Viktor KUZNETSOV.

Oslo would be the first stop on the long road to Paris, as it would provide confirmation that he could live up to his own expectations. A world champion in 2011 and 2015, he finished out of the medals in 2017 and 2019.

"The last time I won the World Championships was in 2015, before in 2011. It’s been a long time," Vlasov said. "I missed these emotions. To be the best in the world is the thing I’ve been dreaming about. It’s the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning before going to training."

After barreling through the rounds, winning each of his four matches by at least seven points, Vlasov found a formidable foe in Suleymanov, this year's European bronze medalist and the ‘19 U23 world silver medalist.

Vlasov, a four-time European champion who turned 31 in Oslo, had the first chance in par terre, but could only get a 1-point stepout after walking the airborne Suleymanov over the edge.

But Suleymanov had no answer when the roles were reversed in the second period, and Vlasov clinched the win when he deftly evaded a stepout attempt in the final 20 seconds.

"The final match did not go as planned," Vlasov said. "I had to wrestle super hard to keep that one point scored. Patience brought the gold."

Patience and appreciation of each victory along the way are what will look to get him to the Paris Games, a lesson he learned from the Tokyo debacle.

"The last Olympic cycle I made the mistake of counting down the days to the Olympics," Vlasov said. "This time I just enjoy every title. Today I am the happiest man on Earth, tomorrow we’ll be the new day, the new qualification for the new world championships. "The Olympics are the dream of every athlete. I’ve been there twice, and I want to become a three-time Olympic champion. But it’s better not to go ahead of time."