"KID" Yamamoto Injured in Olympic Wrestling Bid

By Jordan Breen Jan 28, 2007
Japanese mixed martial arts superstar "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures) suffered an unceremonious setback to his Olympic wrestling dream on Sunday, sustaining an injury to his right arm just 16 seconds into his semifinal match with 2004 Athens Games bronze medalist Kenji Inoue at the Emperor's Cup the Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo.

On the final day of the 2007 Emperor's Cup, Yamamoto took to the mats for his first wrestling competition in seven years, competing in the 132-pound men's freestyle class. Yamamoto's last wrestling appearance came in November of 1999 when he took second place in the 128-pound men's freestyle class at the Emperor's Cup, falling just short of the 2000 Sydney Games.

Not long after his second place finish at the Emperor's Cup, Yamamoto's now-infamous incident involving a BB gun and a yakuza gang member saw his suspension from amateur competition and his departure from Yamanashi Gakuin University, whereupon he began training for a career in mixed martial arts under Enson Inoue.

Last July "KID" announced that he would take a hiatus from MMA to concentrate on his pursuit of an Olympic wrestling bid for the 2008 Beijing Games. While he did return to the ring on Dec. 31 to dispatch former Olympic Greco-Roman gold medalist Istvan Majoros, Yamamoto — following in the footsteps of his family's wrestling success: his father a Munich Games Olympian on the mats and his sisters freestyle wrestling world champions — has remained committed to his goal of competing in the Olympics.

Yamamoto opened up the day with an impressive victory over Japanese Self Defense Forces member Akihiro Tsuchida. "KID" looked nimble and explosive against Tsuchida, who took third in the 132-pound freestyle class at last year's Emperor's Cup. Disaster struck in the semifinals when the first move of the match, an arm-whip takedown by Inoue, left Yamamoto with a dislocated right elbow, and consequently prone for the easy pinfall.

It is thought that Yamamoto suffered a dislocation of his right elbow as a result of the throw. Yamamoto gave no comment before being taken to hospital via ambulance.

In the 132-pound final, All Japan collegiate champion Kenichi Yumoto defeated Inoue to capture back-to-back Emperor's Cup championships at 132-pounds.

Despite the setback, Yamamoto will still have an opportunity to earn a berth in the 2008 Beijing Games. By virtue of his win over Tsuchida, Yamamoto earned the right to compete at the Meiji Nyugyo Cup, the All Japan selections championship, in June. If Yamamoto wins the 132-pound freestyle division at the Meiji Nyugyo Cup he will face Yumoto in a playoff match, with the winner representing Japan at the World Championships in Azerbaijan this September. Yamamoto would then have to place in the top eight at the World Championships, and win the 2008 Emperor's Cup to assure a Beijing Games bid.

On Saturday, former Yamamato HERO'S foe Kazuyuki Miyata (Pictures) took part in the 163-pound men's freestyle class. Miyata, who previously represented Japan at the 2000 Sydney Games at 139-pounds, was successful in his first round match, defeating Waseda Universitys Aoi Otsuki on points. However he was defeated by Hiroteru Kayamori after being pushed off the mat surface, resulting in lost points.
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