At the Montreal Olympics this year, Japan won six medals, including two golds, in freestyle and Graeco-Roman wrestling.
At the Montreal Olympics this year, Japan won six medals, including two golds, in freestyle and Graeco-Roman wrestling. But Japan stands to win more medals in future Olympics with this crop of wrestlers now being trained in Tokyo.
SYNOPSIS: These hand belong to a young girl named Michiko Tamura. Michiko is not like any other girl her age. She happens to be the bronze medallist at this year's All Japan Infant Wrestling Championships.
Michiko is just one of 20 children currently enrolled at the Kiguchi Wrestling Gymnasium on the outskirts of Tokyo. They're being groomed as freestyle wrestlers.
Michiko is only eight years old and weighs 25 kilos (56 lbs). But she's been wrestling since 1974 when her brother first introduced her to the sport.
For three hours every Sunday morning, she and her friends go through a rigorous training schedule that begins with calisthenics.
Their trainer, Noriaki Kiguchi, is a former amateur freestyle wrestler himself. Kiguchi is serious about his work. And one day he hopes to produce a champion form one of his young students. Wresting is a tough sport even for adults, but these children are forced to go through drills and aching muscles to build up their strength.
After their exerciser, Kiguchi usually spends a few minutes with his students to teach them various techniques. The trainer's voice fills the gym, urging his young opponent to lift his leg higher, to push him harder and even to play a "full Nelson".
Following the practice session, Kiguchi then matches two of his students together for a free-for-all tussle on the mat.
It's a serious business. After shaking hands, the wrestlers do their best to throw, hold and choke each other. For Michiko, the most exciting thing in wresting is to be able to throw boys down on the mat. She says she wants to be a policewoman when she grows up. Her mother, however, is somewhat anxious about her interest in wrestling. She's after her daughter may eventually get "cauliflower ears" and too muscular and won't be able to find anyone who will marry her. But Michiko says she's not a pretty girl anyway, so she doesn't mind. She just likes to wrestle.