Saori Yoshida, a 55-kilogram (121 pound) women's freestyle wrestler, is arguably the most dominant individual athlete-male or female-in any sport in the world over the past decade.The 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games gold medalist in her weight class, Yoshida has been victorious in nine straight world championships.
The holder of ten consecutive national titles in Japan, Yoshida impressively won 119 matches in a row before losing to American Marcie Van Dusen at the end of 2008. She has since embarked on another lengthy winning streak heading towards the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. Yoshida sounds confident of continued success, and believes no one can stop her victory march if she stays healthy and focused.
Japan has been the preeminent world power in women's freestyle wrestling since it became an international sport of consequence in the 1980s. In fact, Japan has easily captured the majority of the Olympic and World Championship titles decided since 1987, and appears poised to capture more Olympic medals in London.
There are only four weight classes for women in freestyle wrestling. This is considerably different from the men's sport which contests seven individual weight classes. As freestyle wrestling for women gains in popularity globally, this fact makes for ever more talented groups of wrestlers competing for scarce medals.
If Saori Yoshida wins Olympic gold in London this summer, her cumulative total of global titles will equal the standard of a dozen set by the incredible Russian Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin. She would then have a chance to set a new mark of thirteen combined Olympic and World Championship wins later in the year.
Patrick Hattman lived in Japan for more than a decade and continues to closely follow the country's best athletes and team sports.