Business & Economy Science & Technology Education & Society Sports & Fashion Arts & Entertainment
Top Picks Back Numbers Search

Female Wrestler Carries On Family Legacy

October 29, 1999

Japan is home to one of the world's top wrestlers. She is Kyoko Hamaguchi, who for the third consecutive year topped the world's elite in the 75-kilogram (165-pound) class at the World Female Wrestling Championships held in Sweden in September 1999. Her father is former professional wrestler Animal Hamaguchi. With women's wrestling likely to be introduced as an official event at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, father and daughter are drawing closer to their shared dream of an Olympic gold medal for the young grappler.

Top of Her Class
Japan can lay claim to some of the world's best female wrestling talent. At the 1999 World Championships, the country's athletes took top honors in three of the six weight classes and finished second to the United States in the team standings.

Kyoko Hamaguchi, 21, is Japan's standout performer. She competed in her first World Championship event in the 70-kilogram (154-pound) weight class at age 17 in 1995, finishing thirteenth. The following year she improved to seventh, and when she moved up a class to 75 kilograms in 1997, she won her first championship at age 19. Since then she has been virtually unbeatable, attaining her third straight world crown this year. She also received the award given to the most "beautiful and technical" wrestler.

Family Tradition
Hamaguchi has been active in numerous sports from a young age, including swimming, volleyball, and karate. She competed in a Tokyo bodybuilding contest at age 13, the event's youngest competitor ever, where she received a special-mention prize.

"Like father like son" (like daughter, in this case), the saying goes, so it is not surprising that Hamaguchi, daughter of former professional wrestler Heigo "Animal" Hamaguchi, should follow in her father's footsteps. She trains at a gym run by her father in Tokyo, developing her strength and skill.

The 1999 championship was an unusually tough struggle for Hamaguchi. "At one point I was so overwhelmed by pressure and anxiety that I considered withdrawing," she confesses. In addition to the pressure not to lose that comes with being reigning champion, she had not been able to prepare for the tournament to her satisfaction. On the mat, however, her true talent shined forth. In the final match she defeated Christine Nordhagen of Canada, who had won four straight championships in the 68-kilogram (150-pound) class before moving up a weight class to challenge Hamaguchi, to stand once again on the winner's podium. For Hamaguchi, the event was every bit as much a trial of the spirit as it was a test of her wrestling skills.

Hamaguchi's father, who is also her coach and mentor, has high hopes for his daughter: "There is talk that female wrestling will become an Olympic event starting from the Athens Games. I want to see her aim for her fourth and fifth straight world championships and then go for the gold at the Olympics."

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.