Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Asian Games: Silver medalist's odd stunt stuns wrestling crowd

AFP , DOHA

Wrestler Kyoko Hamaguchi lost her Asian Games title but won the publicity battle by staging a bizarre stunt which wouldn't have looked out of place on television's WWF Wrestlemania.

After Japan had won three golds, Hamaguchi, the daughter of a former pro-wrestler nicknamed "Animal," lost her 72kg title to China's Olympic champion Wang Xu.

But for the following 15 minutes, father and daughter engaged in a sideshow with all the hallmarks of pro-wrestling which has a huge cult following in Japan.

"Hey, Kyoko. Don't Cry!" shouted Heigo Hamaguchi, 59, as he rushed from the stands to the edge of the media interview zone where his daughter was sobbing after the medal awarding ceremony.

Kyoko, 28, suddenly dropped her jacket, handed the silver medal to her father, and then launched into a series of 50 push-ups, screaming "one, two, three."

"Crawl out of here. This is where it starts," Heigo responded.

"The silver in Asia paves the way for Beijing [2008 Olympics]. Understand!" he said.

The crowd in Qatar were stunned, but the Japanese have seen it all before as Heigo accompanied Kyoko on her five straight world championship triumphs while running a pro wrestling gym in downtown Tokyo.

But his 170cm daughter has been without a world-class win since 2003.

She lost to Wang in the semi-finals at the 2004 Athens Olympics and settled for a bronze. She had vowed to gain revenge here.

"I couldn't give it all but defeat is defeat," said Kyoko, still nursing a broken nose she suffered when she finished second at the world championships two months ago.

"I will keep on challenging until the Beijing Olympics," she said.

Women's wrestling made its Asian Games debut only in 2002, two years before it became an Olympic event, although the more glitzy professional version inside the roped ring has been around for decades worldwide.

The women's world championships have been held 18 times since 1987 with Japan grabbing 50 titles.

The quartet here have two Olympic and 15 world titles between them and wrestling has also been a family tradition for those other than Hamaguchi.

Saori Yoshida, 24, who has just won her fourth straight 55kg world title, retained her Asiad crown by winning all three matches to stretch her winning streak to 100 over five years.

"I feel relieved. I will work hard again to stretch the record on and on and win my second Olympic title," said Yoshida, whose father is former amateur national champion Hidekatsu, who trained her in her childhood.

Kaori Icho, 22, won the 63kg title adding to her four world titles, and her older sister Chiharu, 25, grabbed the 48kg crown.

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