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2005 World Championships preview at 51 kg/112.25 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling

Gary Abbott USA Wrestling

This division was not contested on the world level last year, as it was not included the Athens Olympic Games. The last World champion at this division was Japan's Chiharu Icho, who competed at 48 kg in the Olympics and won a silver medal. Icho wrestled at 51 kg this year at the Women's World Cup, and could remain at this division for the Worlds.

Olympic champion Irini Merlini of Ukraine, who beat Icho in Athens, has been up at 51 kg this year, and won the European Championships at this weight. Merlini also won a gold medal at the World University Games this summer, beating Canada's veteran Lyndsey Belisle in the gold-medal finals. Belisle competed at the Olympics at 48 kg, but has twice been fourth in the World Championships up at 51 kg.

The 2003 World silver medalist was Natalya Karamtshakova of Russia, and the World bronze medalist was American Jenny Wong, who is down at 48 kg. The U.S. entry this year is veteran Stephanie Murata, a past World silver medalist who has wrestled at the World Championships a number of times. Murata will be expected to be among the top medal contenders, with considerable experience and poise.

Russia might bring 2005 European runner-up Natalja Smirnova to compete this year or 2003 World silver medalist Natalia Karamchakova. Smirnova was second behind Icho at the Women's World Cup this season. Alena Kareisha of Belarus, who was fourth at the 2003 World Championships, won a bronze medal at the World University Games in Turkey this year.

2002 World champion Sofia Poumbouridou wrestled up a weight class last year, but could be a force if she drops back down to this division. Wen Juling of China was fifth at the 2003 World Championships. Others to watch are Asian champion Hitomi Sakamoto of Japan or Asian runner-up Dinara Mizaeva of Uzbekistan.

Others to watch include Vanessa Boubryemm of France, Ana Paval of Romania and Tsogbazar Enkjargal of Mongolia, Boubryemm was third at the World Cup this past year. The Junior World champion was Alexandra Kohut of Ukraine, who has also competed down at 48 kg in the past.

This weight class could boil down to a showdown between Icho and Merlini, a rematch of the Olympic gold medal match but up one weight division. There could be some considerable depth in the division if some of the other veterans are still competing. Don't be surprised if there are new names in the standings this season, including some young talents.


2003 World Championship results
112.25 - Gold - Chiharu Icho (Japan) dec. Natalia Karamchakova (Russia), 3-0; Bronze - Jenny Wong (United States) dec. Alena Kareisha (Belarus), 3-2, ot, 6:02; 5th - Wen Juling (China); 6th - Anne Catherine Deluntsch (France); 7th - Elzbieta Stryczek (Poland); 8th - Mersini Koloni (Greece); 9th - Nadine Tokar (Switzerland); 10th - Alexandra Demmel (Germany)

2002 World Championships results
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - 1st - Sofia Poumbouridou (Greece) dec. Chiharu Icho (Japan), 3-0, ot; 3rd - Natalia Golts (Russia) dec. Lyndsay Belisle (Canada), 3-0; 5th - Viktorya Brandush (Ukraine); 6th - M.Ugrun Percin (Turkey); 7th - Wen Juling (China); 8th - M. Magdelena Arellano (Mexico); 9th - Alena Kareisha (Belarus); 10th - Stephanie Murata (USA)

2001 World Championships results
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold - Hitomi Sakamoto (Japan) won by tech. fall over Stephanie Murata (USA), 12-1, 4:59; Bronze - Gao Yanzhi (China) pin Lindsay Belisle (Canada); 5th - Natalia Karamthakova (Russia); 6th - Vanena Boobryem (France); 7th - Djulia Okot (Bulgaria); 8th - Alena Kareisha (Belarus); 9th - Sofia Poubouridou (Greece); 10th - Inesa Rebar (Ukraine)
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