Japan to Dispatch Takahashi to Last-Chance Olympic Qualifier
Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - 05:54 By Ken Marantz
TOKYO, Japan (April 13) --- The Japan Wrestling Federation plans to dispatch former world champion Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) to the final world Olympic qualifying tournament at freestyle style 57kg in place of Rei HIGUCHI (JPN), who missed the chance qualify Japan for the Tokyo Olympics when he failed to make weight at the recently completed Asian qualifier.
JWF general manager Shigeki NISHIGUCHI was quoted as saying on the federation website on Tuesday that Takahashi said he is prepared to take on the challenge at the last-chance qualifier, to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 6-9.
"Higuchi has to reduce much weight, and there is not much time until [the qualifying tournament, so we are considering sending Yuki Takahashi, who has achieved good results such as winning the title at the 2017 World Championships," Nishiguchi said.
Securing a berth for Japan in Sofia, however, will not automatically guarantee the place for Takahashi. According to federation rules, he will have participate in a playoff, to be held on the final day of the All-Japan Invitational Championships to be held in Tokyo on May 27-30.
Higuchi's failure to make weight was the start of a rough day for Japan, as it failed to earn any berths in the four freestyle weight classes in which it competed.
Nishiguchi said that national team technical director Kenji INOUE contacted Takahashi to confirm that he was available, and the 2020 national champion replied, "I am fully prepared."
Higuchi had moved up a weight class after winning the silver medal at 57kg at the Rio 2016 Olympics, then made an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics at 65kg.
He then dropped back down to the lightest weight class, and won the 2019 national title to earn the ticket to the Asian qualifier in Almaty. Making weight was always a struggle, and the Japan federation was left in shock when he just barely missed making weight at the weigh-in.