Japan picked up all three wrestling golds up for grabs on 17 August, as Eri Tosaka, Kaori Icho and Sara Dosho took the respective honours in the Rio 2016 women’s freestyle wrestling 48kg, 58kg and 69kg events.
Tosaka was the first to climb to the top of the podium, edging out Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan 3-2 in the 48kg final to add Olympic gold to the three consecutive world titles she won between 2013 and 2015, and leave Stadnik with another silver to go with the one she collected at London 2012. Bulgaria’s Elitsa Atanasova and China’s Sun Yanan earned the bronzes.
After winning what was Japan’s eighth gold medal of Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Tosaka said: “I want to say thank you to everyone that has cheered me on. I tried to keep on concentrating on the match and I wanted to win so I just kept going.”
Icho was next up to collect gold, beating Valeriia Zholobova of Russia 3-1 in the deciding match of the 58kg event to become the first woman in history to win four golds in individual events at four Olympics, the first athlete to win four golds in wrestling, and the first Japanese woman to win four golds at the Games.
“I have wrestled for so many years. I have to thank all those who supported me — my family, my friends, all those surrounding me,” said Icho. She also described the move that won her gold: “I grabbed her from behind. I didn’t aim at counterattacking at all. It was just natural.”
Sakshi Malik snared bronze to give India their first medal of Rio 2016 and their maiden podium finish in Olympic women’s wrestling, defeating Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 3-1 in one of the two bronze medal matches. Marwa Amri of Tunisia won the other.
Reacting to her historic achievement, Malik said: “I want to say that girls can also do a lot if you give them confidence. It’s my dream of 12 years come true. I’m so happy. It’s a very pressurised match because it’s a medal match, very very pressurised. I was very confident I would win.”
Sara Dosho then completed a golden hat-trick on the mat for Japan, seeing off Russia’s Natalia Vorobieva 3-1 in the final of the 69kg competition, with Jenny Fransson of Sweden and Elmira Syzdykova of Kazakhstan rounding off the podium.
After securing Japan’s 10th Olympic wrestling title and their 10th gold of Rio 2016, Dosho said: “Gold medal has been my goal since I was a child so I am so excited.” Like Tosaka and Icho before her, she had to come from behind to win her gold medal bout, prompting her to comment: “It was not our strategy to win like that, with a comeback in the last few seconds. I just did not give up and I just convinced myself of never giving up.”