Women have participated in Olympic freestyle wrestling since the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Japan has topped the medal standings thus far by winning four of the eight gold medals awarded, and is favored once again for first place in the medal standings in London.
The Japanese women have been led from 2004 by the incomparable Saori Yoshida. The 29-year-old Yoshida has two of Japan's four women's freestyle wrestling golds to her credit. She is also a nine-time world champion, and has never left a World Championships with anything less than gold.
Yoshida has been so dominant over the past decade internationally that she put together a winning streak of 119 matches before a loss in 2008, and then strung together 58 straight victories prior to a loss earlier this year.
Japan's other great women's freestyle wrestler has been Kaori Icho. Icho has the other two Olympic golds for Japan in the sport. The 28-year-old Icho's record at World Championships is almost as impressive as Yoshida's with seven world titles of her own.
Both Icho and Yoshida will represent Japan for a third time in London. The following list takes a brief look at all four women entered for the country and their medal prospects:
FLYWEIGHT: Hitomi Obara(nee Sakamoto) is the only first-time Olympian on Japan's women's freestyle wrestling squad. At both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Japan was represented at 48 kilograms by Chiharu Icho, Kaori's sister, and she performed well by winning a pair of silver medals.
Obara is a tremendous wrestler in her own right, winning eight World Championships golds, with most of them at 51 kilograms-a weight not contested at the Olympics. Now 31 years old, the London Games probably represent Obara's one shot at Olympic glory.
LIGHTWEIGHT: Saori Yoshida is the prohibitive favorite for gold at 55 kilograms, but Canada's Tonya Verbeek could give her a run for the title, and American Kelsey Campbell could surprise for a medal.
MIDDLEWEIGHT: Kaori Icho will be favored again for gold and Japanese fans will look forward with great anticipation as Icho and Yoshida compete for their third Olympic titles.
HEAVYWEIGHT: Kyoko Hamaguchi will make her third Olympic appearance at 72 kilograms. She desperately wants to improve on the bronze medals earned by her at the Athens and Beijing Olympics. At the age of 34, Hamaguchi is nearing the end of her career and will be hard pressed to make it to the gold-medal match in London.
Patrick Hattman covers the Olympics for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He lived in Japan for more than a decade and continues to closely follow the country's best athletes and team sports.