NAGOYA – Kazuhito Sakae, the prominent wrestling coach who came under fire for harassing four-time Olympic champion Kaori Icho, has filed a defamation suit against another coach believed to have first made the allegations, Sakae’s lawyer said Saturday.
Sakae, who brought the case to the Nagoya District Court on Thursday, is seeking ¥3.3 million ($29,300) in damages for what he says were erroneous elements in the accusations. The claims were made in an anonymous complaint in January, but Sakae claims they came from coach Chikara Tanabe.
A former head coach of the women’s national team, Sakae resigned as development director for the Japan Wrestling Federation in April over the scandal after a third-party panel confirmed four cases of so-called power harassment, including one incident when he told the wrestler, “How dare you wrestle in front of me?”
He later publicly apologized.
According to the lawsuit, however, Sakae did not do other things he was accused of, such as prohibiting Icho from training at a Metropolitan Police Department facility and firing Tanabe as coach of the national men’s team.
Sakae said he was psychologically affected by the false claims being repeatedly reported by the media, and has been receiving treatment for depression since July.
The scandal involving one of Japan’s most successful female athletes saw wide coverage on TV and in newspapers. Icho, 34, won gold medals at the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics.