KLIPPAN, Sweden (February 15) – Rio 2016 gold medal finalists Erica WIEBE (CAN) and Valerie KOBLOVA-ZHOLOBOVA (RUS) return to international competition this weekend at the lead-off event of an unofficial Triple Crown of women’s wrestling – the Klippan Ladies Open.
Along with Wiebe and Koblova, hometown heroine Jenny FRANSSON (SWE) and fellow Rio 2016 bronze medalist Monika MICHALIK (POL) are also entered in the senior-junior division competition at Klippan Sporthall on Saturday and Sunday.
Gold medal winner Wiebe, who enjoyed a short stint in the Indian Pro League in January, comes to Sweden seeking a third Klippan crown at 75kg after back-to-back triumphs in 2014 and 2015.
Pan American champion Justina DISTASIO (CAN) could pose the biggest challenge to Wiebe at heavyweight along with Paris Grand Prix medalists Cynthia VESCAN (FRA) and Epp MAE (EST) as well as European silver medal winner Alena STARODUBTSEVA (RUS).
Koblova, who came within five seconds of snaring a gold medal in Rio, faces a crowded field of challengers at 58kg led by Yarygin Grand Prix titlist Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ). The Asian champion will be seeking to reverse a 4-1 semifinal loss in Rio to Koblova.
World bronze medalist at 60kg Emese BARKA (HUN) is entered at 58kg along with Paris winner Michelle FAZZARI (CAN) – another Rio Olympian, two-time junior European champ Grace BULLEN (NOR) and Yarygin runner-up Veronika CHUMIKOVA (RUS).
Meanwhile, local favorite Fransson, a bronze medal winner at 69kg in Rio, will seek a second win in Klippan but will likely have to get by junior world champ and Paris titlist Koumba LARROQUE (FRA). A win for Fransson will be her first triumph at home since 2011.
Michalik is entered at 63kg and could face Pan American Games champ Braxton STONE (CAN), European Games gold medalist Valeria LAZINSKAYA (RUS) along with fellow Rio Olympians Henna JOHANSSON (SWE) and Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS).
Meanwhile, Rio 2016 Olympian at 58kg Petra OLLI (FIN) is back at 60kg, where she has ruled Klippan the last two years while she targets a fifth Open title in a row.
Another wrestler seeking to keep her Klippan streak alive is three-time cadet world champion Yui SUSAKI (JPN), who won her senior international debut at the Yarygin Grand Prix last month.
Susaki won in Klippan as a cadet the last three years and is in the hunt for her first senior crown at 48kg but will have to get by Rio 2016 bronze medal finalist Patricia BERMUDEZ (ARG), 2015 world bronze medal winner Jessica BLASZKA (NED) as well as Olympians Jasmine MIAN (CAN) and Alina VUC (ROU).
In other categories, Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL) appears to be the favorite at 53kg after bronze medals in Klippan in 2015 and 2016, while 55kg could come down to showdowns among 2015 junior world medalists Ramona GALAMBOS (HUN), Becka LEATHERS (USA) and European under-23 runner-up Aleksandra ANDREEVA (RUS).
Friday, February 17 (Cadets)
15:00-16:00 – Medical Control, All Weight Categories
15:30-16:00 – Weigh-in, All Weight Categories
18:00 Pool Competition, Preliminary Rounds
Friday, February 17 (Seniors)
15:00-16:30 – Medical Control, All Weight Categories
16:00-16:30 – Weigh-in, All Weight Categories
Saturday, February 18 (Cadets)
09:00 - Pool Competition, Final Rounds
Saturday, February 18 (Seniors)
13:00-17:00 – Preliminary Rounds and Repechage
Sunday, February 19 (Seniors)
10:00-13:00 – Medal Finals