SHIZUOKA – Four-time Olympic wrestling champion Kaori Icho on Sunday won her first competition since returning from a two-year break after winning gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Icho won three bouts for her victory in the women’s 57-kilogram division at the All Japan Women’s Open Championships in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture.
It took only 38 seconds for Icho to beat Ayako Shimanaka of Doshisha University via technical fall in the first round to start off her return to the mat.
Icho defeated Hanako Sawa of Shigakkan University in the semifinals and defending champion Fusano Mochizuki of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in the final to wrap up the title.
She earned a berth in December’s All Japan Championships, which serve as the qualifier for next year’s World Championships Astana, Kazakhstan.
In 2016, the 34-year-old Icho became the first woman in any sport to win individual gold at four consecutive Olympics following her victory in the 58-kg event.
But with less than two years to go until Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she refrained from talking about competing in her fifth Summer Games, saying she puts her focus on bringing her physical and mental condition to where it was before she went into her sabbatical.
“I can’t say it easily considering my age. I need to build up my motivation to win my fifth Olympics from the bottom of my heart,” Icho said.
The Japan Wrestling Federation earlier this year acknowledged that Icho had suffered power harassment at the hands of former JWF development director Kazuhito Sakae.
Sakae resigned from the JWF in April after a third-party panel of lawyers confirmed instances in which he harassed Icho, and the federation offered her an apology in August in an effort to convince her to return to the sport.
Icho has resumed training under coach Chikara Tanabe, who won bronze in the men’s freestyle 55-kg category at the 2004 Athens Games, at Nippon Sport Science University.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5