• KYODO, JIJI

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Toshihiko Koga, a Japanese Olympic judo champion at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, died Wednesday at his home in Kawasaki, people close to him said. He was 53.

The three-time Olympian had been temporarily hospitalized in the spring of last year due to cancer and underwent surgery, the people said.

Koga was scheduled to take part in the Tokyo Olympic torch relay in May in his native prefecture of Saga, in southwestern Japan. The relay kicks off Thursday in Fukushima Prefecture in the country’s northeast.

Having missed the podium in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Koga won the gold medal in the men’s 71-kg category at the Barcelona Games, despite a left leg injury, and earned silver in the 78-kg class at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

After retiring as a competitor, Koga served as a coach for the women’s national judo team.

He was part of an emotional moment at the 2004 Athens Olympics, when Ayumi Tanimoto embraced him after winning the gold medal in the women’s 63-kg class in a scene that was widely televised.

He also coached the women’s judo team at International Pacific University in Okayama, western Japan, from 2007, making it one of the strongest clubs in the country.

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