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Andy’s Angles: Japan’s Yoshida adds to legacy with Japanese media in tow
By Andy Hamilton
Story of the day: Japan’s Saori Yoshida allowed a point.
It’s not exactly big news when Yoshida wins a World title. The most decorated wrestler in history has 13 of them now, to go along with her three Olympic golds.
But those in attendance Wednesday at Orleans Arena witnessed something that hadn’t been seen at the top level of international competition in three years. Yoshida surrendered a point. Twice, nonetheless.
And the virtually unbeatable 32-year-old experienced a rare push to the limit.
Sweden’s Sofia Mattsson tested Yoshida in the World title bout at 53 kilograms before dropping a 2-1 decision.
“I felt I was close this time,” said Mattsson, who dropped 5-0 and 6-0 decisions against Yoshida in the World finals the past two years. “I think I maybe still had some respect left. But now I think it could’ve been me. Just go. Don’t think so much. Just go.”
There haven’t been many “could’ve-been-me” moments against Yoshida on the World stage. Her opponents have had a hard enough time just scoring a point against the Japanese great.
Yoshida dropped a period in the 2012 World semifinals against Ukranian Nataliya Synyshyn before blanking Helen Maroulis in a two-period title performance.
The past two years she outscored her opponents 60-0 at the World Championships and mowed through the first three rounds Wednesday, notching a pin and two technical falls before her 13-match shutout streak came to an end during a 5-2 semifinal win against North Korea’s Myong Suk Jong.
No wonder at least 14 Japanese journalists tracked Yoshida’s every move Wednesday.
A Japanese interpreter said Yoshida mentioned the growing challenge of staying on top as her title count swells.
“It’s hard when you’re competing with someone who has so many gold medals,” Mattsson said. “At the same time, it always motivates me to keep training harder and harder.”
Mattsson scored in the first period when the 30-score clock expired without a Yoshida point. The Japanese great picked up the pace with a pair of push-outs after the break. The 25-year-old Swede repeatedly got to Yoshida’s legs but couldn’t capitalize.
“I got her and then I stopped just for less than a second,” Mattsson said. “When I had it, I should’ve kept going instead of stopping and trying to change direction.”
Best jubilation scenes: Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria) and Jessica Blaszka (Netherlands)
Adekuoroye danced and sang after pinning China’s Xeuchun Zhong 23 seconds into the bout for bronze at 53 kilograms to become the second World medalist in her country’s history. Quite a performance for a woman who started wrestling four years ago at the age of 17.
Minutes after becoming her country’s first World medalist in 28 years, Blaszka wore a look of stunned disbelief as she hugged teammates in the back hallway of Orleans Arena.
“I got a medal,” she yelled. “We need to party tonight.”
Question of the day: Where were the Iranians?
No horns. No chants. I didn’t fly halfway across the country to see the Iranian fans get upstaged by the Mexican section.
Granted, only one Iranian competed Wednesday. Habibollah Akhlaghi claimed the Greco-Roman bronze at 85 kilograms.
Short on numbers and long on instruments and enthusiasm, the Mexican section made itself noticed Wednesday morning. Equipped with horns, rattles and creativity, the group counted down in Spanish with time running out on the second-round bout at 48 kilograms as Mariana Diaz Munoz appeared headed to a victory via criteria.
Then Uzbekistan’s Dauletbike Yakhshhimuratova scored a takedown with five seconds remaining and the countdown stopped before it hit quatro.