Key dates: Aug. 8 to 9, gold-medal matches Venue: ExCel Exhibition Centre Big story: The Japanese women are poised to dominate the event, just as they did in 2008 when all four of their athletes won medals. Kaori Icho (above) is expected to win her third consecutive Olympic gold in the 139-pound class, while teammate Saori Yoshida recently claimed her ninth world title in the 121-pound class. If Yoshida can finish atop the medal stand, she will match the 12 international titles won by the legendary Alexander Karelin of Russia. Top U.S. prospects: The Russian-born Elena Pirozhkova finished second at the 2010 World Championships to Icho and insists that she has closed the gap on her rival in the past year. Ali Bernard thrust herself into the medal conversation by finishing third in the 158-pound class at the 2011 World Championships and by beating three world medalists in that tournament. After making her third consecutive national team, Kelsey Campbell could be in the medal mix with a favorable draw in the 121-pound class. Others to watch: The biggest threats to the Japanese women's gold rush are Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria and Tonya Verbeek of Canada. Zlateva, a five-time world champion and reigning Olympic silver medalist, has owned the 158-pound class in recent years. With five Olympic and world medals, Verbeek will be Yoshida's biggest obstacle. Little-known fact: American Clarissa Chun is the first U.S. wrestling team member male or female from Hawaii.
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