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Monday, 28th May 2012
In Japan Sports News,

Japan wrestler's 58-match win streak ends

With mere weeks to go until the London Olympics, Japan's biggest hope of a gold medal has suffered a setback, but don't go writing her off just yet.

Looking to extend her remarkable 58-match winning run against Russia's Valeria Zholobova, wrestler Saori Yoshida lost 2-1 in the 55kg division of the women's World Cup, AFP reported.

The shock loss left the supreme champion fighting back tears, but positives can still be taken from the match, with Japan stealing the team title from Russia – something not achieved in six years of trying.

It is possible that the defeat may dent Yoshida's confidence, but it would be a brave gambler that would bet against the diminutive grappler.

She is not used to losing, having previously gone 119 matches victorious before her last 58-bout run.

The Games in London this summer will give her the chance of a third straight Olympic Gold Medal, and should she take it home then her record will be on a par with the Russian great Alexander Karelin.

Like Karelin, Yoshida has won nine World Championships back to back and a third Olympic Gold would bring her record alongside the super heavyweight, who fought in the 130kg division.

Speaking after her loss, Yoshida said: "All I have done will mean nothing if I don't achieve a three-peat in London," the news agency quoted.

"I want to turn these tears into tears of joy in London and I want to finish with a smile on my face."

History is on her side, however. The last time Yoshida lost a match was in the run up to the Beijing Olympics, where she duly dispatched all-comers to walk away with gold.

Between now and the Games in London, there remains much work to do, with her coach Kazuhito Sakae saying that her trademark high-speed tackle has now been figured out by opponents.

"She has yet to get her act together. She cannot tackle full-out. We need to improve on that," he said.

Written by Graham McPherson