#WrestleTokyo Olympic Games Preview: 60kg
Wednesday, July 21, 2021 - 17:17 By Vinay Siwach
TOKYO, Japan (July 21) -- The last time the Olympics were held in Tokyo, Japan won two gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling. 57 years later, Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) will have a chance to repeat the feat the world champion at 60kg leads the country's hope for an Greco-Roman Olympic champion in 37 years.
But it won't be easy for the 25-year-old wrestler who has not wrestled internationally since the 2020 Asian Championships in New Delhi.
Fumita will have to navigate through a field of stud wrestlers including Sergey EMELIN (RUS) who he beat in the 2019 Worlds final 10-5 after being down 0-5. That win will be a psychological advantage for the Japanese but Emelin, the 2018 world champion, will be keen on avenging tha.
Given that Fumita will be seeded number one at the Games and Emilin second, the two can only meet in the final at 60kg.
Fumita announced himself on the big stage by winning the World Championships in 2017 in Paris and since then has been the top contender for the gold medal at every tournament he competes. He won the Asian Championships in 2017 but suffered a knee injury which kept him away till late in 2018.
But he made a golden comeback by winning the U23 World Championships title and began the 2019 with a bronze medal finish at the Asian Championships. As the World Championships neared, a lot of talk in Japan centered around his rivalry with 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist Shinobu OTA (JPN).
But Ota decided to wrestle at 63kg, and Fumita got a chance to lock his spot for the home Olympics if he won a medal at the Worlds. He did that with gold.
Emelin too will be under pressure to deliver for wrestling powerhouse Russia at his first Olympics. Like Fumita, he also announced himself with a big win at the European Championships in 2016. A year later he won a silver medal at the U23 World Championships. But the ever-improving Russian won the world title in Budapest 2018 making him the first choice for Russia.
As expected, he qualified the weight for the Olympics but suffered a loss in the final. A month later, he lost in the final of the World Military Games as well. But the Ruzayevka, Mordovian-born wrestler returned to win the European Championships in 2021 before punching his ticket to Tokyo with the Russian title.
The wrestler he defeated in the 2021 European final will be a big threat to both Fumita and Emelin. The young Kerem KAMAL (TUR) isn't far in skill and strength and with two World appearances to his name, one can say he has gained the experience as well.
The two-time junior world champion has been a force to reckon at the continental level with medals at every European Championships he has participated in. Yet, he has not won a gold medal which exposes his relatively newer life at the top level.
After failing to qualify for the Games at the World Championships, he grabbed the first chance he got at the European Qualifiers in 2021. The Turk can also have a potential semifinal against Emelin, a wrestler he has always found difficult to beat.
At the 2018 Junior World Championships which Kamal won, a young wrestler from Iran finished as a bronze medalist. Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI) will be representing the Asian country in Tokyo and will be seeded fourth.
The seed proves his rapid rise in which he won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships – his first at the senior level. He stunned a host of wrestlers in his semifinal run before he lost to Fumita 1-10.
Nejati has competed internationally only once since that bronze-medal finish. At the Ukraine tournament, he captured the gold medal, a big confidence booster before the Olympics.
The bronze medal in Nur-sultan was also a big step for Nejati as it was over Rio Olympics bronze medalist Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB) who will be competing in Tokyo.
Traveling to his third Olympic Games, the Uzbek veteran can use his experience to spoil the party for the seeded wrestlers. As has been the case in the past, Tasmuradov has a habit of showing up at the big tournaments.
A silver and two bronze medals at the World Championships and five Asian Championships gold medals are proof that he still has the capacity for a big run in Tokyo.
He fell to Fumita at the Worlds but rebounded in repechage to reach the bronze medal bout, good enough to qualify him for the Olympics. If he can manage his weight loss, Tasmuradov has all the attacks in the arsenal to spring a surprise.
If that was not enough, the presence of Mirambek AINAGULOV (KAZ) and Lenur TEMIROV (UKR) in Tokyo adds more problems to the favorites. Ainagulov won a silver medal at the 2018 World Championships after losing to Fumita and later added a bronze in 2019, having lost the semifinal to Emelin. In the bronze bout, he defeated Temirov.
But the brightest among the youngsters is Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) who won the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. While he has suffered defeats against two of the favorites at this weight, his wins over Sailike WALIHAN (CHN) and 2018 world champion Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) make him a potential medal contender.
At the Individual World Cup, he stormed through to the final and scored a come-from-behind win over Maryanyan. He defeated Walihan at the Asian event 4-3. But during his age-group tournaments, he has suffered losses to Kamal and Fumita. Before going to Tokyo, he participated in the Vehbi Emre tournament and finished with a silver after a loss to Kamal.
Two young wrestlers who cannot be ruled out of the medal race are Victor CIOBANU (MDA) and Armen MELIKYAN (ARM), the two qualifiers from World Olympic Qualifiers.
Wrestling at the Tokyo Olympic Games kicks off August 1-7 at the Makuhari Messe with 65kg action beginning on August 1.
No. 1 Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN)
No. 2 Sergey EMELIN (RUS)
No. 3 Kerem KAMAL (TUR)}
No. 4 Ali Reza Ayat Ollah NEJATI (IRI)
Mirambek AINAGULOV (KAZ)
Lenur TEMIROV (UKR)}
Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB)
Haithem Mahmoud Ahmed Fahmy MAHMOUD (EGY)
Abdelkarim FERGAT (ALG)
Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB)
Ildar HAFIZOV (USA)
Etienne KINSINGER (GER)
Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ)
Sailike WALIHAN (CHN)
Victor CIOBANU (MDA)
Armen MELIKYAN (ARM)