2008 Olympic Games preview at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. in women?s freestyle wrestling
Gary Abbott USA Wrestling

For six straight years, Kaori Icho of Japan has won the gold medal at this weight class, including the Olympic title in 2004. Icho has been a model of consistency, always ready for the major events. Icho added an Asian Championships gold medal this year, giving her additional momentum going into the Olympic year.

The battle in recent seasons has been for second place behind Icho. Winning the 2007 World silver medal was Elena Shalygina of Kazakhstan. The 2006 World silver medalist was Xu Hai Yan of China. Capturing second place at the 2005 World Championships was a different Chinese competitor, Rui Xue Jing. Xu was eighth at the World Championships in 2007.

Winning World bronze medals the last two years has been Monika Michalik-Rogien of Poland. The 2008 European champion was Alena Kartashova of Russia, who was a World champion in 2002 and placed eighth at the 2004 Olympic Games. Another potential entry for Russia is Lyubov Volosov, who was fifth in the 2006 World Championships.

2004 Olympic bronze medalist Lise Legrand of France will get a chance for a second Olympic medal after placing fifth at the 2007 World Championships to qualify for the Beijing Games. LeGrand won a bronze medal at 67 kg at the European Championships this year, the weight she has wrestled in recent seasons, but is expected to drop for the Olympics.

Canada will be represented by Martine Dugrenier, who has dropped down from 67 kg, where she has won silver medals at the World Championships the last three seasons. Dugrenier was at 63 kg at the 2008 Pan American Championships, where she won the gold medal.

Carrying the banner for the United States will be Randi Miller, who is competing in her first World-level event. Miller defeated 2004 Olympic silver medalist and three-time World medalist Sara McMann in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Miller has had good results in international events, and is expected to battle for high honors in Beijing.

Qualifying their nation for the Olympics by placing in the top eight at the 2007 World Championships were Yulia Ostapchuk of Ukraine and Olesja Zamula of Azerbaijan. Ostapchuk was a 2007 Junior World champion. Ukraine could be represented by Olga Khilko, who was second in the 2008 European Championships and third in the 2005 World Championships.

Top competitors out of Asia are Elena Shalygina of Kazakhstan, who was a Junior World silver medalist in 2006 and second in the 2007 Asian Championships, as well as Badrakh Odionchimeg of Mongolia, who was third in the 2007 Asian Championships.

Qualified nations at 63 kg/138.75 lbs ? Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Egypt, Spain, France, Guam, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, United States


2007 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver - Elena Shalygina (Kazakhstan); Bronze - Sara McMann (United States); Bronze - Monkia Michalik - Rogien (Poland); 5th - Lise Golliot - Legrand (France); 5th - Yulia Ostapchuk (Ukraine); 7th - Olesja Zamula (Azerbaijan); 8th - Haiyan Xu (China); 9th - Nikola Hartmann-Duenser (Austria); 10th - Badrakh Odonchimeg (Mongolia)

2006 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. ? Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver - Xu Hai Yan (China); Bronze - Monika Rogien (Poland); Bronze - Helena Allandi (Sweden); 5th - Yoselin Rojas (Venezuela); 5th - Lyubov Volosov (Russia); 7th - Karine Shadoyan (Armenia); 8th - Agoro Papavassiliou (Greece); 9th - Mihaela Sadoveanu (Romania); 10th - Volha Khilko (Belarus)

2005 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver - Rui Xue Jing (China); Bronze - Sara McMann (USA); Bronze - Olga Khilko (Ukraine); 5th - Anna Polovneva (Russia); 5th - Katarzyna Juszezak (Italy); 7th - Michaela Krizkova (Czech Republic); 8th - Tara Hedican (Canada); 9th - Monika Szerencse (Hungary); 10th - Helena Allandi (Sweden)

2004 Olympic Games results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold ? Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver ? Sara McMann (USA); Bronze ? Lise Legrand (France); 4th ? Stavroula Zygouri (Greece); 5th ? Viola Yanik (Canada); 6th ? Volha Khilko (Belarus); 7th ? Stephanie Gross (Germany); 8th ? Alena Kartashova (Russia); 9th ? Lili Meng (China); 10th ? Sara Eriksson (Sweden)

2003 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. ? Gold ? Kaori Icho (Japan) dec. Sara McMann (United States), 4-3, ot, 8:20; Bronze ? Viola Yanik (Canada) pin Lyudmila Golovchenko (Ukraine), 2:44; 5th ? Alena Kartacheva (Russia); 6th ? Lene Aanes (Norway); 7th ? Sabrina Esposito (Italy); 8th ? Volha Khilko (Belarus); 9th ? Stephanie Gross (Germany); 10th ? Geetika Jakhar (India)

2002 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - 1st - Kaori Icho (Japan) pin Sara Eriksson (Sweden), 4:38; 3rd - Lene Aanes (Norway) pin Haivan Xu (China), 2:35; 5th - Malgorzata Bassa (Poland); 6th - Nikola Hartmann-Dunser (Austria); 7th - Stephanie Gross (Germany); 8th - Geetika Jakhar (India); 9th - Tara Hedican (Canada); 10th - Myagmarsuren (Mongolia)

2001 World Championships results
62 kg/136.5 lbs. - Gold - Lili Meng (China) dec. Diletta Giampiccola (Italy), 4-0; Bronze - Lene Aanes (Norway) dec. Stephanie Gross (Germany), 3-0; 5th - Volha Khilko (Belarus); 6th - Bassa Malgorzata (Poland); 7th - Lyudmila Golovchenko (Ukraine); 8th - Patricia Leibel (Canada); 9th - Lotta Andersson (Sweden); 10th - Michala Krizkova (Czech. Republic)