China Overshadows Japan, Sends Quartet into Finals as Women's Wrestling Gets Underway

By Ken Marantz

A Far Eastern country dominated the opening session of the women's wrestling competition at the Asian Championships and no, it wasn't Japan.

China, led by a pair of Zhous, put four wrestlers into the finals of the five weight classes at stake on the third day at Kozhomkul Sports Palace, while only two Japanese managed to make it to gold-medal matches.

LEI Chun (CHN) stormed into the 50kg final with a pair of technical falls and will face Vinesh VINESH (IND), a silver medalist a year ago in New Delhi who will aim to become the first Indian woman to win an Asian title.

The other Chinese going for gold will be RONG Ningning (59kg), New Delhi 2017 bronze medalist ZHOU Feng (68kg) and ZHOU Qian (76kg).

The Chinese just missed out on making it 5-for-5, but LUO Lannuan (CHN) lost a heartbreaking 6-5 decision in the 55kg quarterfinals to OH Hyemin (KOR). Oh advanced to the final, where she will face Saki IGARASHI (JPN).

China's showing was not such a surprise to Siemon CHTEREV, a former two-time world medalist from Bulgaria hired six months ago to coach the women's team.

"For our team, this is a good result," Chterev said.

Chterev pointed out that the Chinese women outdid their Japanese counterparts at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in January in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, where they came away with five golds, two silvers and a bronze. Among the winners were Rong and Zhou Qian.

Asked if he set a goal for medals in Bishkek, Chterev replied, "I want every time to win a gold medal."

In the finals, Rong will face Nabira ESENBAEVA (UZB), while Zhou Feng is pitted against three-time Asian medalist Tumentsetseg SHARKHUU (MGL) and Zhou Qian will take on Paris 2017  world bronze medalist Hiroe MINAGAWA SUZUKI (JPN).

India's Vinesh provided the surprise of the session when she scraped out a 4x-4 win over former Asian champion Yuki IRIE (JPN). That gave her a measure of revenge for a loss in the New Delhi final to Japan's Yui SUSAKI, who went on to win the world gold in Paris.

Irie, an Asian champion in 2015, had pulled a surprise of her own by beating Susaki at the Japan national championships in December.

Irie and Minagawa are the only national champions on the team to Bishkek, as the Japan federation put priority on the Women's World Cup that the nation will host in mid-March and sent obstensibly a young, second-string team.

Against Vinesh, Irie was the dominant wrestler but fell victim to her own impatience and a fatal error. While trying to finish off a takedown, she attempted for force Vinesh over, but the Indian clamped down on her arm and threw her for a 4-point move.

Irie completed two takedowns in the second period to tie the score at 4-4, but Vinesh thwarted her attempts for a third and held on for a win by criteria.

"The Indian wrestler is strong, but she didn't do anything," Japan women's coach Hideo Sasayama said. "There are not many competitors who do those throws like that. It happened to her this time. This gives her something to reflect on and will be good for her in the end."

While Japan was never likely to approach its showing from New Delhi, where it won five of eight golds with a team that included world and Olympic champions, Sasayama said gaining international experience was also an objective.

"We have young wrestlers and they didn't perform so well, but it becomes a good learning experience," he said. "It gives them something to work on for the next time. For the wrestlers who can still get a medal [tonight], we hope they can finish up with a win."

Women's Wrestling
50kg (12 entries)
Gold - LEI Chun (CHN) v Vinesh VINESH (IND)

Bronze –  Aktenge KEUNIMJAEVA (UZB) v Narangerel ERDENESUKH (MGL)
Bronze – KIM Hyungjoo v Yuki IRIE (JPN)

Semifinal – LEI Chun (CHN) df. Narangerel ERDENESUKH (MGL) by TF, 11-0, 0:34
Semifinal – Vinesh VINESH (IND) df. Yuki IRIE (JPN), 4x-4

55kg (9 entries)
Gold - Saki IGARASHI (JPN) v OH Hyemin (KOR)

Bronze –  Nazgul NURAKHAN (KAZ) v Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL)
Bronze – LUO Lannuan (CHN) v Amina ALIMBETOVA (UZB)

Semifinal – Saki IGARASHI (JPN) df. Nazgul NURAKHAN (KAZ), 3-0
Semifinal – OH Hyemin (KOR) df. Amina ALIMBETOVA (UZB), 3-1

59kg (10 entries)
Gold - Nabira ESENBAEVA (UZB) v RONG Ningning (CHN)

Bronze –  Sangeeta SANGEETA (IND) v UM Jieun (KOR)
Bronze – Phimsuphak AINPHEN (THA) v Shoovdor BAATARJAV (MGL)

Semifinal – Nabira ESENBAEVA (UZB) df. UM Jieun (KOR) by TF, 11-1, 3:36
Semifinal – RONG Ningning (CHN) df. Shoovdor BAATARJAV (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:53

68kg (9 entries)
Gold - ZHOU Feng (CHN) v Tumentsetseg SHARKHUU (MGL)

Bronze –  PARK Sujin (KOR) v Irina KAZYULINA (KAZ)
Bronze –  Divya KAKRAN (IND) v Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ)

Semifinal – ZHOU Feng (CHN) df. Irina KAZYULINA (KAZ) by TF, 10-0,
Semifinal – Tumentsetseg SHARKHUU (MGL) df. Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ), 2x-2

76kg (9 entries)

Bronze –  Chantsalnyamaa AMGALANBAATAR (MGL) v Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ)
Bronze – Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) v HWANG Eunju (KOR)

Semifinal – Hiroe MINAGAWA SUZUKI (JPN) df. HWANG Eunju (KOR) by TF, 10-0, 1:01
Semifinal – ZHOU Qian (CHN) df. Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ), 2-1


Evloev Gives Host Country 74kg Freestyle Gold

By Ken Marantz

On the night the curtain came down on the Asian Championships in Bishkek, Muslim EVLOEV (KGZ) provided the perfect final act.

Evloev gave the host country a gold medal in 74kg freestyle as the tournament wrapped up its well-supported six-day run at the Kozhomkul Sports Palace with finals in five weight divisions.

Evloev, riding an early 5-point lead, never let up in defeating Mandakhnaran GANZORIG (MGL) by 11-1 technical fall with :24 remaining to give Kyrgyzstan its first Asian freestyle gold since 2015 and fourth in its history.

"It's a great feeling," Evloev said of winning at home to improve on his silver medal he won last year in New Delhi. "The crowd was really supporting me as much as they could and I couldn't fail them, so I did my best."

Iran finished up by capturing two golds, as reigning world and Olympic champion Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) cruised to his first Asian title with a victory at 86kg, and Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) followed by winning the 92kg crown.

In a duel between Georgian-born wrestlers for the 125kg title, Davit MODZMANASHVILI (UZB) defeated Giorgi SAKANDELIDZE (QAT), 5-0, in a tepid match that capped the tournament.

Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), 61kg champion looking for a gut wrench. Photo Max Rose-Fyne. 

The other gold at stake went to Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), a New Delhi 2017 bronze medalist who scored two takedowns in the second period of the 61kg final to top Kazuya KOYANAGI (JPN), 6-2.

Uzbekistan, which had won five medals, including two golds, on Saturday, added two bronzes to Modzmanashvili's gold to clinch the team title with 178 points. Iran finished second with 157 and Kazakhstan third with 146.

Evloev acknowledged he was heartened by the Greco victory of compatriot Akzhol MAKHMUDOV on the second day, one of the tournament's iconic moments for the thunderous ovation it elicited from the delirious crowd.

"Of course he did inspire me," Evloev said. "And I also want to say congratulations to Makhmudov because I haven't seen him yet."

In the final, Evloev used a single-leg lift to dump Ganzorig, a two-time world bronze medalist, backwards to the mat for a 4-point move, which became 5 when the Mongolian side's challenge was unsuccessful.

"It made me feel more confident, but I was going to wrestle until the last second," Evloev said of being staked to a big early lead. "That's why I won."

Photo of Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) by Max Rose-Fyne. 

Outside of the Kyrgyz wrestlers, the spotlight was squarely on superstar Yazdani Charati.

And he lived up to expectations by overwhelming Uitumen ORGODOL (MGL) in the 86kg final, scoring with a takedown and roll combination right away, and then reeling off three takedowns for a 10-0 technical fall with 36 seconds still left in the first period.

Orgodol added the Asian silver to the one he won in 2016 and his bronze from 2013.

So popular is the Iranian that he had a phalanx of Kyrygz security guards whereever he went, and was whisked pass waiting media and fans without comment after his medal ceremony and completing doping procedures.

In the 92kg final, Ebrahimizivlaei built up a 5-1 lead through the first period against Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ), then gave up a passivity point and nothing else to take the gold with a 5-2 victory.

The plodding end to the final bout of the tournament, the 125kg final, belied the historical significance of it.

Modzmanashvili, a London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist for Georgia, took a 4-0 lead with an early takedown to a roll, then gained a point when Sakandelidze was on the activity clock in the second period, when the two giants seemed to have little desire to expend further energy.  

By winning the silver medal, Sakandelidze became Qatar's first-ever medalist at the Asian Championships. The Gulf nation's best previous showing had been fifth place.

Although it took an import to gain a spot on the medal podium, Qatari officials were ecstatic with the result.

"After a long period, this is a big success for Qatar wrestling federation, for Qatar," said team leader Vardan Ghazaryan. "For the first time in senior championships, after more than 50 years, we take such success. Qatar is very proud and it will advertise wrestling to include more young schoolboys for developing wrestling in Qatar."

Ghazaryan said the federation has high expectations for Sakandelidze, who he said has lived in Qatar for two years.

"This is, of course, his first match for Qatar, but you will see his success and medals, gold medals, in the future."

Among the bronze-medal matches, Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) overcame an 8-3 deficit with 45 seconds remaining, scoring the winning takedown in the final seconds to defeat KIM Daisung (KOR), 11-8, at 74kg.

Kim, who clearly ran out of gas down the stretch, is a 40-something high school wrestling coach who came out of retirement to make the national team, according to a South Korean federation official.

Azizbek SOLIEV (UZB) also notched a last-second takedown to upend Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL), 4-3, in their 92kg third-place match.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and China all came away with two bronze medals on the night, while host Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia had one each.

61kg (12 entries)
Gold - Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ) df. Kazuya KOYANAGI (JPN), 6-2

Bronze - Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB) df. Sharvan SHARVAN (IND), 6x-6

74kg (12 entries)
Gold - Muslim EVLOEV (KGZ) df. Mandakhnaran GANZORIG (MGL) by TF, 11-1, 0:24

Bronze - Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. KIM Daisung (KOR), 11-8
Bronze - Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Dovletmyrat ORAZGYLYJOV (TKM) by TF, 10-0, 4:12

86kg (12 entries)
Gold - Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) df. Uitumen ORGODOL (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 3:24

Bronze - Azamat DAULETBEKOV (KAZ) df. Javrail SHAPIEV (UZB), 4-0
Bronze - BI Shengfeng (CHN) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND) by TF, 10-0, 3:41

92kg (10 entries)
Gold - Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ), 5-2

Bronze - LIN Zushen (CHN) df. SUE Changjae (KOR), 2-1
Bronze - Azizbek SOLIEV (UZB) df. Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL), 4-3

125kg (13 entries)

Bronze - Zolboo NATSAGSUREN (MGL) df. NAM Koungjin (KOR) by TF, 10-0, 4:43
Bronze - Amin TAHERI (IRI) df. Sohbet BELLIYEV (TKM) by TF, 14-4, 3:02