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Japan Olympic minister resigns over disaster gaffe

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Olympic minister resigned Wednesday after making remarks deemed offensive to the people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a gaffe that had questioned his credentials.

Yoshitaka Sakurada said he submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said he made comments that hurt the feelings those in the disaster-hit areas, and just retracting them would not be enough.

Sakurada, at a party earlier Wednesday for Hinako Takahashi — a ruling lawmaker from Iwate, one of the prefectures severely hit by the disaster — said Takahashi is more important than reconstruction.

Sakurada was in charge of the 2020 Games, whose main theme is to promote reconstruction of the disaster-struck region.

Abe was quick in his damage control. Soon after accepting Sakurada’s resignation, he apologized for the minister’s remark to the people in the disaster-hit region, reassuring them that his government has an unshakable policy to do the utmost for reconstruction while staying close to the feelings of the people affected.

“As prime minister, I offer an apology to everyone in the disaster-hit areas,” Abe said. “I have a responsibility for having appointed him.”

Former Olympic minister Shunichi Suzuki is expected to return to the post to replace Sakrada, Japanese media reports said.

Sakurada joined Abe’s Cabinet as part of its reshuffle last year, quickly making a reputation as a gaffe-prone minister.

Sakurada, who also doubled as cybersecurity strategy chief, said in November that he does not use a computer. In February, he was forced to apologize after expressing disappointment over swimming gold medal hopeful Rikako Ikee’s disclosure of her leukemia diagnosis. Sakurada was also scolded for being late and holding up a parliamentary session.

“Minister Sakurada’s resignation is only natural. It was an unbelievable comment that hurt the feelings of the people in the region and others working hard for the reconstruction,” said Yukio Edano, leader of a main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Edano also criticized Abe for repeatedly defending Sakurada despite his repeated problems since his appointment.

Sakurada’s resignation is also an embarrassment for Abe, who saw another Cabinet member step down over a questionable remark. Deputy minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister Ichiro Tsukada quit last week after suggesting he acted for the interests of Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso over a road project related to their constituencies, prompting opposition lawmakers to seek explanation though he denied any preferential treatment.

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J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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