The government will bestow the People’s Honor Award on Ms. Saori Yoshida — a wrestler who has won three Olympic gold medals and 10 world championships — “for bringing hope and courage to society.” As Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said in announcing the government’s decision to give her the award, “With her everyday practice and perseverance, Ms. Yoshida has made an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of wrestling.” We congratulate her on becoming the 20th winner of the award.
The 30-year-old wrestler began her winning streak at the 2002 world championship and won her latest world championship in September. She has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals — in 2004 in Athens, in 2008 in Beijing and in 2012 in London, where she served as national flag-bearer for the Japanese team.
In winning the award, Ms. Yoshida joins an elite group of Japanese athletes that includes baseball legend Mr. Sadaharu Oh, marathoner Ms. Naoko Takahashi, judoka Mr. Yasuhiro Yamashita and last year’s winner, Nadeshiko Japan, the national women’s soccer team. Ms. Yoshida’s award will likely increase Japanese interest in wrestling, which lags in popularity behind baseball, soccer and sumo. We hope that it will also spark interest in other equally worthy but less popular sports.
At the London Olympics, Japanese athletes demonstrated the breadth of their skills and strength by winning medals in 13 different sports. Some of the medalists have been coached by their fathers, including Ms. Yoshida. She started wrestling at the age of three under the instruction of her father, Mr. Eikatsu Yoshida, who in his competitive days won a national championship. Ms. Hiromi Miyake, who won a silver medal in weightlifting in the London Olympics, has been training under the instruction of his father, Mr. Yoshiyuki Miyake, a former world champion weightlifter.
Families that have strong sports tradition play an important role in society. Children learn not only athletic skills from their parents but also a love of sports, which helps them to develop strong, healthy bodies and a disciplined work ethic that benefits them in other areas of life.
Other Japanese medalists in the London Games developed their skills in community sports clubs and training centers. Two other gold medalists in women’s wrestling — Ms. Hitomi Obara and Ms. Kaori Ichou — trained in two different wrestling clubs in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. Their gold medal victories brought spirit and vivacity to their city. Investment and scientific and strategic approach are often emphasized as means of winning more medals in Olympic Games. But as Ms. Yoshida and other Olympic athletes have demonstrated, sport carries a deeper meaning and has a greater impact when it nurtured in families and communities.