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Four-time Olympic champion Icho harassed by coach

Japan’s Kaori Icho celebrates on the podium after winning the gold medal in the women’s 58kg freestyle wrestling event at the Rio Olympics in 2016 © AFP/File / Toshifumi KITAMURA

TOKYO, Japan, Apr 7 – A key coach of the Japan Wrestling Federation has been forced to resign for harassing Japan’s four-time Olympic champion Kaori Icho, in a scandal rocking the nation’s wrestling circles.

The complaints were made against federation development director Kazuhito Sakae, 57, who helped Japan secure four women’s wrestling gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The federation late Friday acknowledged the complaints after a third-party panel of lawyers submitted a report to it. The federation said it recognised four cases of harassment of Icho by Sakae.

According to the panel, when Icho joined a national training camp in 2010, Sakae asked her: “How dare you wrestle in front of me?”

Sakae also pressured Icho’s coach to stop working with her during the 2010 world championships, the panel said in the report.

The complaint also said the omission of Icho from the Japan team for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou without sufficient explanation amounted to harassment.

The report said Sakae began harassing Icho after she changed her training base against his wishes.

Federation president Tomiaki Fukuda offered an apology and vowed to review its training system and trials for major competitions.

The government is separately conducting its own investigation into the case.

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Icho became the first woman in any sport to win four gold medals in individual events across four Games with her victory in the women’s freestyle 58kg final in Rio.

She won her previous three golds in 2004, 2008 and 2012 in the 63kg category.

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