Younger Kawai Finally Gets Best of Rival Tynybekova with Dramatic Win in Possible Olympic Prelude

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 21)— The minuscule amount of time on the clock was less significant than the location on the mat as Yukako KAWAI (JPN) pulled off a last-second victory over nemesis and world champion Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) in what could be regarded a prelude to the 2020 Olympic final.

Kawai, who had lost two previous meetings with Tynybekova within the past year, pulled off a dramatic lateral drop at the edge to notch a 4-1 victory in their quarterfinal match to start the women’s 57kg competition on the fourth day of the Asian Championships.

Kawai, a 2018 world silver medalist who had to settle for a bronze last September in Nur-Sultan, followed up her win by defeating up-and-coming teenager Sonam SONAM (IND) in the semifinals as all five Japanese in action made it to the finals, to be held in the night session at K.D. Jahrav Wrestling Stadium.

In another high-profile match early in the program, world silver medalist Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) made it 3 for 3 in meetings with bronze medalist and local star Vinesh VINESH (IND) with a 6-2 win in their quarterfinal clash at 53kg. 

Rio 2016 Olympic and three-time world champion Risako KAWAI (JPN) took some time to get in gear, but joined younger sister Yukako in the finals with two solid victories at 57kg. 

Yukako Kawai had lost to Tynybekova in the final of the 2019 Asian Champi0nships in Xi’an, China, then again in the second round at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan. 

“At the World Championships, I didn’t wrestle my match and ended up losing,” Kawai said. “So I focused on wrestling in my style.”

Until the dramatic finish, the only points came on the activity clock, with Tynybekova earning hers in the second period to be ahead on criteria. Kawai got nowhere with a front headlock, then worked to secure a double underhook as the seconds ticked off. She then hit the lateral drop to slam Tynybekova to her back with :02 on the clock.

The big issue was whether the move was launched outside of the circle, but it was upheld on video challenge, giving Kawai her final point.

“I was aware of the time, and if I was going to lose anyway, I thought I have to just give something a shot,” Kawai said. “It was all or nothing.”

Kawai regards the victory as giving her a psychological edge going into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“She’s an opponent whom I have never beaten, so I wanted to beat her once going into the Olympics,” Kawai said.  

Kawai still had to get past Sonam, who ousted veteran Sakshi MALIK (IND) from the national team spot at 62kg. Trailing 1-0 going into the second period, Kawai scored a stepout point while on the activity clock, then added a takedown en route to a 5-2 victory.

“Looking at her videos, I had the image that she was very powerful, and in reality, she was really strong, and she made it difficult for me,” Kawai said. “From that match I saw things I need to work on when I get back home in practice.”

In the final, Kawai will face 2017 Asian bronze medalist Ayaulym KASSYMOVA (KAZ) in an attempt to capture her first senior continental title. 

Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) won her third straight match against Vinesh VINESH (IND) with a 6-2 opening round win. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 53kg, Mukaida used a nifty sweeping single-leg attack to both sides to get past Vinesh. After the second, she added a gut-wrench to go-ahead 6-0. While Vinesh scored her first-ever points against the Japanese with a sweeping single of herown, her attacks were effectively shut down.

“This was our third meeting and Vinesh is really a strong competitor,” Mukaida said. “I had to be wary of her. I’m sure she did her homework as well, so it was difficult, but I was able to get in [on my attacks].”

Indian women’s team coach Andy COOK said he was encouraged by what he saw from Vinesh.

“The game plan we had worked, for the time we were in it,” Cook said. “As we switched up a little bit, we got caught up, and we gave up really one takedown and two gut wrenches. 

“We have to work on a different par terre defense, just make a small adjustment so she doesn’t make any big body movements. That’s what caught us, when she went from a lace to a gut and then, bam!”

Mukaida, who made the final with an 10-0 technical fall of Thi Ly KIEU (VIE), will aim to regain the Asian title she won in 2017 in New Delhi when she faces Tatyana AKHMETOVA AMANZHOL (KAZ) in the final.

“This time, the big match was at the beginning,” Mukaida said. “It’s also my first competition in a while. To get back my match sense, I thought all the time before coming that I want to have a good tournament.”

Risako KAWAI (JPN) is on a quest to win her fourth Asian gold medal. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Risako Kawai, the Asian champion in 2015, 2016 and 2017, will try for title No. 4 when she faces Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL) in the final.

Kawai opened with a 7-0 win over Sevara ESHMURATOVA (UZB), in which she had just an activity point in the first period, then overwhelmed Anshu ANSHU (IND) by 10-0 technical fall in the semifinals.  

“I was nervous,” Kawai admitted. “It’s my first overseas tournament since the World Championships, so I was a bit nervous, and a little tight. The first match went like it did, but in the second match I was moving much better.”

Japan’s other finalists are 2019 Asian silver medalist Naomi RUIKE (JPN) at 65kg and world U-23 bronze medalist Mei SHINDO (JPN) at 72kg. 

Ruike will face Malik for the gold in a rematch of their preliminary group match, which Ruike won 2-1 with all points scored on the activity clock. Malik has already improved on the bronze medals she won the past two years. 

Shindo’s last barrier on the path to gold comes in the form of Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ), also a bronze medalist from 2019.

Day 4 Results

Women’s Wrestling

53kg (10 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) df. Thi Ly KIEU (VIE) by TF, 10-0, 2:09
SEMIFINAL – Tatyana AKHMETOVA AMANZHOL (KAZ) df. Aktenge KEUNIMJAEVA by Fall, 4:48 (11-0)

57kg (8 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Risako KAWAI (JPN) df. Anshu ANSHU (IND) by TF, 10-0, 1:10
SEMIFINAL – Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL) df. Altynay SATYLGAN (KAZ) by Fall, 5:16 (4-3) 

62kg (8 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Yukako KAWAI (JPN) df Sonam SONAM (IND), 5-2
SEMIFINAL – Ayaulym KASSYMOVA (KAZ) df. Nomin Erdene PURVEE (MGL) by Fall, 3:31 (4-0)

65kg (6 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Naomi RUIKE (JPN) df. Bolortungalag ZORIGT (MGL) by Fall, 5:59 (11-3)
SEMIFINAL – Sakshi MALIK (IND) df. Nabira ESENBAEVA (UZB), 5-4 

72kg (6 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) df. Tsevegmed ENKHBAYAR (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 3:31
SEMIFINAL – Mei SHINDO (JPN) df. Preet Kaur GURSHARAN (IND) by Fall, 3:46 (12-1)


Kaisanov Caps Eventful Week by Repeating as Asian 74kg Champ

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 23)—It’s been a good week for Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ). Five days after he was upgraded to the world bronze medal that he felt should have been his all along, he clinched a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by successfully defending his freestyle 74kg title at the Asian Championships.

Kaisanov edged local favorite Jitender JITENDER (IND) 3-1 in the final as Kazakhstan captured two of the remaining five gold medals at stake on the final day of action at New Delhi’s K.D. Jadhav Wrestling Stadium.

“I believed I could win the Asian championship a second time,” Kaisanov said. “This gold medal was very important to me.”

It’s value was enhanced because the Kazakhstan federation informed him that a gold medal in New Delhi would automatically clinch the Olympic spot that he earned at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, where he lost a contentious bronze-medal match to Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA). 

A loss and he would have had to enter a playoff for the ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. Even though he recently suffered a knee injury, the incentive of sewing up the place in New Delhi led him to make the decision to participate. 

“I participated because it was part of the Kazakhstan process for qualifying for the Olympic Games,” he said. “I had to win.”

Kaisanov had faced Jitender last month at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series event in Rome, handily winning 9-2 in a repechage match before winning a bronze.

“One month ago I beat him with a big score [in Rome],” Naisanov said. “But this match was different because he was at home in front of his fans. It was mentally different, that’s why it was difficult.”

In the final, Kaisanov was on the clock when he scored with an exposure off a counter, before Jitender gained a stepout point. In the second period, Naisanov gained an insurance point with a stepout and held on for the win.

The victory came after UWW announced that Khadiev had failed a doping test, which moved Naisanov up to the world bronze. Khadiev had won their third-place match 4-3, but there was contention whether a late stepout by Naisanov should have been scored a takedown.

“I am very happy because after the World Championships I was so sad because I thought I won that match,” Naisanov said. “The referees made some mistakes. When I first heard the news of the doping by the French wrestler, I waited for the official news. I am so very happy. “

In other finals, world U-23 champion Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) picked up his first senior Asia gold after winning bronzes in 2016 and 2018 when he decked Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) in 2:44.

Zholdoshbekov, who had an eye poked in his opening match by an Iranian foe that bothered him throughout the day, scored a stepout while on the activity clock, then stuffed an arm drag attempt to put Ikromov into a headlock and secure the fall.

“All of the wrestlers want to take the gold in tournaments,” Zholdoshbekov said of gaining the elusive gold. “I worked very hard and I’m very happy.”

Ikromov was denied in his bid to become just the second Tajikstan wrestler in history to win an Asian gold. The only other came in 2003.

Zholdoshbekov said he will drop down to 57kg for the Asian Olympic qualifier to be held in his home country next month.

Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) defeated Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 in the 86kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The biggest surprise of the evening came in the 86kg final, in which unheralded Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) uncorked a pair of 4-point throws and held on to defeat 2019 Asian U-23 champion Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) 10-10 on big-point criteria.

Yamada was third at the Japan Championships, but got the chance to make his international senior debut as national champ Sosuke TAKATANI (JPN) will enter the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament. 

“The chance came to me and to be honest, I thought I wouldn’t win a medal, much less the championship,” said Yamada, who knocked off world silver medalist Deepak PUNIA (IND) in the semifinals. “To get the gold, I’m extremely happy.

“After the semifinal, I went back to the hotel and looked at videos of my opponent in the final. He had high finishes in various tournaments. He’s a strong wrestler. This time, more than skills, I won with guts and patience.”

Bazrighaleh took a 3-0 lead on a takedown and stepout, before Yamada cut the lead with a nifty back trip for a takedown. But the Iranian added another stepout and a takedown to go ahead 6-2 heading into the second period.

That’s when Yamada put to good use his occasional training in Greco, as he locked up Bazrighaleh and executed a picture-perfect lateral drop, not once but twice. That put him up 10-6, and a takedown and 2-point counter were not enough to give Bazrighaleh the win.

“When I was in high school and sometimes in college, I entered Greco competitions,” said Yamada, a second-year student at powerhouse Yamanashi Gakuin University. “We often practice Greco style. Even though the styles are different, I’m glad I didn’t just limit myself to freestyle. 

“I used it in situations where I was both winning and losing. I just had to give it a shot and see what happens.”

Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) crushed Takuma OTSU (JPN),11-0, and claimed the 92kg gold medal. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Another final that featured a clash between Iran and Japan went the Middle East nation’s way, as Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) stormed to an 11-0 technical fall of Takuma OTSU (JPN) for the 92kg gold. 

That helped Iran capture the team title with 168 points, just 9 ahead of host India in second. Kazakhstan finished third with 146 points, 6 ahead of Japan.

Ironically, had Yamanashi Gakuin University entered the team competition on its own, it would have placed sixth with 100 points. The school located 120 kilometers west of Tokyo in Kofu city got gold medals from Yamada and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) at 65kg, a silver from Otsu, and bronzes from Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) at 61kg and alumnus Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) at 57kg.

“We expected at least third places from the lower weights,” Yamanashi coach Kunihiko OBATA said. “The guys in the upper weights far exceeded our expectations. It’s a good experience and gives them confidence.”

The final gold of the night went to world U-23 bronze medalist Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ), who executed three gut wreches in dominating Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) for a 10-0 technical fall in 1:32.

In the bronze-medal matches, host India’s two world medalists came away with hardware, as Rahul AWARE (IND) topped Majid DASTAN (IRI) 5-2 at 57kg and Punia rolled to a 10-0 technical fall of Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) at 86kg.

Japan and Iran had two bronze medalists each, while Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Korea had one each.

Daichi TAKATANI (JPN), a silver medalist at both the Asian Championships and Asian Games in 2018 at 65kg, picked up a bronze medal in his debut at the next Olympic weight of 74kg with a 15-4 technical fall of Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ).

Takatani had unsuccessfully tried to dislodge 2018 world champion Otoguro at 65kg in the battle to make Japan’s Olympic team, then made the drastic jump up two weight classes to 74kg. He came up short of grabbing the Tokyo 2020 spot, but his second place at the Japan Championships earned him a ticket to New Delhi.

While conceding little in terms of technique, Takatani still feels the gap in size, and allowed Mahmood to pull off a 4-point counter to start their bronze-medal match. But his superior skills came to the forefront and he piled up the points before finishing the match in 5:28.

Day 6 Results


61kg (13 entries)
GOLD – Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) df. Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) by Fall, 2:44 (3-0)
BRONZE – Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) df. YUN Jihoon (KOR), 4-2
BRONZE – Rahul AWARE (IND) df. Majid DASTAN (IRI), 5-2

74kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. Jitender JITENDER (IND), 3-1
BRONZE – Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) df. Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ) by TF, 15-4, 5:28
BRONZE – Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Sumiyabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), 5-0 

86kg (9 entries)
GOLD – Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) df. Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 
BRONZE – Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) by TF, 10-0, 2:43

92kg (8 entries)
GOLD – Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Takuma OTSU (JPN) by TF, 11-0, 5:31 
BRONZE – Tsogtgerel MUNKHBAATAR (MGL) df. Chyngyz KERIMULOV (KGZ) by TF, 11-1, 4:30
BRONZE – Iliskhan CHILAYEV (KAZ) df. Ajiniyaz SAPARNIYAZOV (UZB), 4-4

125kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df. Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:32
BRONZE – NAM Koungjin (KOR) df. Zaman ANWAR (PAK) by TF, 10-0, 3:23
BRONZE – Parviz HADIBASMANJ (IRI) df. Farkhod ANAKULOV (TJK) by TF, 10-0, 2:04