Kaori Icho, Japan wrestling icon, likely shut out of Olympic record in Tokyo

Kaori Icho
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Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho, the lone woman to earn individual gold medals at four Summer Olympics, looks like she will not go for No. 5 at home in Tokyo.

Icho’s already dim Olympic qualifying hopes were weakened while she was absent from this week’s world championships. Her countrywomen earned medals in all three weight divisions that Icho could have realistically entered to make her fifth Olympic team in 2020.

Japanese wrestlers clinch Olympic berths by earning medals at this year’s world championships.

Icho’s best — perhaps only — chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics is if one of those three medalists gets injured between now and July.

The 35-year-old Icho took more than two years off competition after earning her fourth gold medal in Rio.

She attempted to earn Japan’s 57kg spot for worlds but lost in a playoff against fellow Rio Olympic champion Risako Kawai, who went on to win a third straight world title on Wednesday.

Kawai, 24, moved down in weight this Olympic cycle, ending up in direct competition with Icho upon Icho’s return, then handed Icho her first defeat to a countrywoman in 17 years.

Icho once held a 13-year win streak overall and owns 10 world championships. She is already the oldest female Olympic wrestling champion (women’s wrestling was added to the Olympic program in 2004, Icho’s first Games).

In Rio, she joined sailors Paul Elvstrøm and Ben Ainslie, discus thrower Al Oerter, long jumper Carl Lewis and swimmer Michael Phelps as athletes to earn individual gold medals at four Olympics. Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst joined this list in PyeongChang.

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