Decorated wrestler Icho to receive People’s Honor Award

The government said Tuesday it will bestow the People’s Honor Award on Kaori Icho who became the first female wrestler to win four consecutive Olympic gold medals at last month’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“Her accomplishments have moved many people deeply and given them courage,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference after the Cabinet decided to confer the award on Icho, 32.

The 10-time world champion won the women’s 58-kg freestyle final in Rio, also becoming the first woman in Olympic history to claim the gold in an individual event in four straight Games. She previously won the 63-kg category in Athens, Beijing and London.

Suga, the top government spokesman, also commended Icho for “accomplishing a world-scale feat” by constantly exerting unflagging efforts and undergoing rigorous training as well as giving “bright hope” to Japanese people.

Icho, who hails from Aomori Prefecture, will be the 24th individual or group to receive the People’s Honor Award and the second wrestler to do so after fellow Olympian Saori Yoshida in 2012.

Other Olympic gold medalists given the award in the past are men’s judo champion Yasuhiro Yamashita and women’s marathon winner Naoko Takahashi.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno said he hopes more young Japanese will take interest in sports and aspire to become like Icho.

The government established the award in 1977 to honor Yomiuri Giants legend Sadaharu Oh, who broke Hank Aaron’s world record of 755 home runs.