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Risako Kawai upsets Kaori Icho in first round at national championships

Kyodo

Four-time Olympic champion Kaori Icho overcame a loss to Rio de Janeiro Summer Games gold medalist Risako Kawai at the national wrestling championships on Saturday and declared she is now gunning to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Icho and Kawai’s group-stage match was the first between Japanese Olympic champions. Both wrestlers advanced to Sunday’s final, where Icho will get a chance to avenge her first loss to a Japanese opponent in 17 years.

After her semifinal victory, Icho threw her hat in the ring for the 2020 Olympics.

“My desire, my technique and my physical strength have returned,” said Icho, who was competing at the nationals for the first time in three years.

The 34-year-old returned to action in October after overcoming a power harassment scandal that interrupted her career.

Kawai, the 63-kg champion in Rio, has moved down to the Olympic weight of 57 kg for this tournament.

“I’m not thinking about her at all,” said the 24-year-old Kawai. “I simply want to win.”

The four-day meet at Komazawa Gymnasium doubles as the qualifier for next fall’s world championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, where wrestlers can secure Olympic quota places for their country.