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World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 53 kg/116.5 lbs.

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling | Aug. 19, 2014, 11:58 a.m. (ET)

VIDEO: Whitney Conder (USA) dec. Estera Dobre (ROU), 2011 World Championships

Date of competition: Thursday, September 11

The 53 kg weight class is a new division, formed by the expansion of World Championship weights from seven to eight. However, it is also an Olympic weight class, which gives it a high level of importance. We will see athletes who competed in the former 51 kg division, as well as some dropping down from 55 kg (now a non-Olympic weight class). This merging of talent will attract a very strong field for Tashkent.

The biggest name in the weight is one of those coming down from 55 kg, superstar Saori Yoshida of Japan. Nobody has a resume to match this future Hall of Famer, as she has won the most combined World and Olympic gold medals of any wrestler on earth. She passed Greco legend Alexander Karelin at the 2012 Women’s Worlds, and has kept on trucking. The bar is now set at 14, with three Olympic golds and 11 World golds. Yoshida only has two career Senior level losses, both at World Cup events. This year, she won the World Cup, the only event she entered. Yoshida is the queen of women’s wrestling and the master of this new weight class, until somebody beats her or she retires.

With Yoshida established as the person to beat, the rest of the field will be very unsettled. There has been a full season of competition at 53 kg, but because it is only 2 kg lower than 55 kg, there may be entries here that have not wrestled much at the new weight. A review of the World Championships rosters, as well as the current FILA rankings, will be needed for our review, but there may still be changes not discovered until weighins in Uzbekistan.

One of the fan favorites in this field is Sofia Mattsson of Sweden, a 2009 World champion and four-time World medalist. Mattsson was second to Yoshida at 55 kg at last year’s Worlds and won the 2014 European Championships also up at 55 kg. However, she has been at 53 kg for her last four international events this season, which included three gold-medal performances. Mattsson is experienced and talented, but it remains to be seen if this new weight class fits her yet.

Ranked No. 2 by FILA is Russia’s Maria Gurova, the 2014 European champion, who also won the highly-respected Klippan Ladies Open and the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix at this new weight class. A bronze at the recent Poland Open does not take away the luster of a strong season so far.

Sumiya Erdennechimeg of Mongolia was a World silver medalist in 2013 at 51 kg, and has been up at 53 kg all season, with a recent silver medal at the Poland Open.

Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki is tough athlete coming down from 55 kg with much success at her new weight. A 2012 World bronze medalist at 55 kg, she has made the finals of four major events at 53 kg this year. She won gold at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals, a big tuneup for the Worlds, and added silvers at the European Championships, plus the Ivan Yarygin in Russia and the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria.

China’s entry remains a mystery, but there is a lot to choose from. The 2013 World champion at 51 kg, Yanan Sun, is expected to go down to 48 kg. Zhong Xuechun was the 2014 Asian champion at 53 kg and competed at the World Cup, making her the best bet to compete in Tashkent. An option is Junior star Yingfeng Qin, who won bronzes at the Junior Worlds and Junior Asians.

Europe is loaded with talent at this weight. Natalia Budu of Romania won a European bronze medal this year, and is a past World University Championships bronze medalist. Tatiana Debien of France did not medal at the Europeans, but has won seven international medals since last year’s Worlds, including golds at the Paris Grand Prix, the Henri Deglane Challenge and the Francophone Games.

Coming into the Worlds with momentum is Nadeshda Shushko of Belarus, who was second at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals and won the Medved International this season. Roksana Zasina of Poland was fifth at the 2010 World Championships, and won silver medals at this weight at the Grand Prix of Spain and the Grand Prix of Germany.

Just reaching a FILA ranking at No. 20 this time around was Odunayo Adekuroye of Nigeria, the Commonwealth Games champion and second in the 2014 African Championships.

The United States will be represented by 2011 World Team member Whitney Conder, who made her first World Team at 51 kg, but also competed at 55 kg domestically in recent years. She has a ton of international experience, including a 2007 Junior World title, and really seems comfortable at this new weight class. The world may consider her a sleeper, but Team USA believes that she is fully capable of a medal performance this time around.

There are a ton of other athletes besides Conder with past international success who are not in the FILA rankings, but who are also serious medal contenders. An example is 2008 World silver medalist and 2011 World bronze medalist Jyldyz Eshimova-Turtbayeva of Kazakhstan, who was fifth at the Asian Championships this year and third at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals.

Ana Maria Paval of Romania, who was fifth in 2008 Olympics and 2008 World Championships at 55 kg, won a European bronze medal this year at 53 kg. Isabel Sambou of Senegal was fifth at 2012 Olympic Games at 48 kg, and has been a World placewinner at either 48 kg or 51 kg. Sambou won the African Championships and was fifth at this year’s Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix at 53 kg.

Jillian Gallays of Canada was eighth at the 2010 World Championships at 55 kg and competed at last year’s World Championships. A bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games and gold medals at the Canada Cup and the Austrian Ladies Open this year shows her ability to reach medal rounds.

Yulia Blahinya of Ukraine was a 2008 World bronze medalist and fifth at the 2013 World Championships at 51 kg, but has seen limited action at 53 kg. Vietnam boasts this year’s Asian silver medalist, Thi Lua Nguyen. Others with experience and ability to watch include 2013 Commonwealth champion Nirmala Devi of India and Anzhela Dorogan of Azerbaijan, who has past World Championships experience and was fifth at this year’s Medved International.

The real question is whether anybody is ready to beat Saori Yoshida, who has never lost in either the World Championships or Olympic Games. If that is still not possible, the battle will be for the other three medals.

1. Saori Yoshida (JPN); 2. Maria Gurova (RUS); 3. Sofia Mattsson (SWE); 4. Helen Maroulis (USA); 5. Maria Prevolaraki (GRE); 6. Zhong Xuechun (CHN); 7. Natalia Budu (MDA); 8. Tatiana Debien (FRA); 9. Natalya Malysheva (RUS); 10. Nadeshda Shushko (BLR); 11. Altansetseg Battsetseg (MGL); 12. Nanami Irie (JPN); 13. Sumiya Erdennechimeg (MGL); 14. Lalita (IND); 15. Brittanee Laverdure (CAN); 16. Aurelie Basset (FRA); 17. Roksana Zasina (POL); 18. Iulia Leorda (MDA); 19. Liliya Horshina (UKR); 20. Odunayo Adekuroye (Nigeria)


2013 World Championships

51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold – Yanan Sun (China); Silver – Erdennechimeg Sumiya (Mongolia); Bronze – Sim Hyang So (North Korea); Bronze – Jessica MacDonald (Canada); 5th – Victoria Anthony (USA); 5th – Yuliya Blahinya (Ukraine); 7th – Iriyna Kurachkina (Belarus); 8th – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal); 9th – Yu Miyahara (Japan); 10th - Vinesh (India)

2012 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold – Jessica MacDonald (Canada); Silver – Yanan Sun (China); Bronze – Alyssa Lampe (USA); Bronze – Kumari Babita (India); 5th - Zamira Rakhmanova (Russia); 5th - Abdutalipova Abdutalipova (Kazakhstan); 7th - Risako Kawai (Japan); 8th - Roksana Zasina (Poland); 9th - Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia); 10th - Alina Ryzhova (Belarus)

2011 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold - Zamira Rakhmanova (Russia) ; Silver - Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia); Bronze - Patimat Bagomedova (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Jessica MacDonald (Canada); 5th - Rathi Neha (India); 5th - Mareka Shidochi (Japan); 7th - Kum Ok Han (North Korea); 8th - Yanan Sun (China); 9th - Alexandra Engelhardt (Germany); 10th - Maryia Ivanova Yahorava (Belarus)

2010 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold –Oleksandra Kohut (Ukraine); Silver – Yu Horiuchi (Japan); Bronze – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Zamira Rakhmanova (Russia); 5th – Roksina Zasina (Poland); 5th – Tatiana Bakatyuk (Kazakhstan); 7th – Estera Dobre (Romania); 8th – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal); 9th - Jessica Medina (USA); 10th – Anzhela Dorogan (Azerbaijan)

2009 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold - Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Silver - Kum Ok Han (North Korea); Bronze - Oleksandra Kohut (Ukraine); Bronze - Yuri Kai (Japan); 5th - Natalia Budu (Moldova); 5th - Di Hong (China); 7th - Alexandra Englehardt (Germany); 8th - Babita Kumari (India); 9th - Tatyana Bakatyuk (Kazakhstan); 10th - Emese Szabo (Hungary)