Kawai follows in sister’s footsteps with women’s wrestling gold

© Yahoo News Japan
© Yahoo News Japan

Tokyo, Japan, August 4, 2021: Yukako Kawai followed in her sister Risako’s footsteps by winning a gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling for Japan at the Olympic Games.

Yukako, 23, defeated Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 4-3 in a ferocious final of the women’s 62kg category at Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba prefecture on Wednesday night.

Not only did it bring another medal to the Kawai family, following Risako’s gold at women’s 63kg at Rio 2016, it also continued Japan’s fine record in Olympic women’s wrestling.

Top seed Tynybekova, 28, is the reigning world champion and 2018 Asian Games champion. She was competing in her third consecutive Olympic Games and this silver medal is her best result, and her country’s third medal of Tokyo 2020. 

Trailing 1-0 early on, third seed Kawai gained the advantage by grabbing the left leg of Tynybekova and, after steadfast defence by the Kyrgyz wrestler, the Japanese was able to unbalance her right leg and put her down for a two-pointer and a 2-1 lead after three minutes.

First-time Olympian Kawai scored another two-pointer in the second period for 4-1 but Tynybekova would not give up and a late attack closed the gap to 4-3 with only 4 seconds remaining. Kawai held on in a frantic finish to clinch gold.

This was the first gold medal won by a member of the Japan women's wrestling team at the Tokyo Games. Thanks to Kawai's performance, Japanese female wrestlers have now clinched gold in five consecutive Olympics since the 2004 Athens Games, when women's wrestling became an official Olympic sport.

Kawai’s sister Risako, 26, is competing in the Tokyo Olympics 57kg freestyle wrestling.