Kaori Icho

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

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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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Japanese wrestling legend fails to make world championships, Olympics in peril

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Kaori Icho‘s bid to become the first person to earn individual gold at five Olympics just got tougher.

Icho, already the lone woman to earn individual gold at four Olympics, lost a playoff against fellow Rio Olympic champion Risako Kawai for a world championships spot, according to Japanese media.

It’s the biggest setback of Icho’s comeback after taking more than two years off from competition following Rio.

“Frankly, this is frustrating,” Icho, 35, said Saturday, according to Kyodo News. “Making up for that hiatus was difficult and that has played a part.”

Icho, who won the 58kg class at the Rio Games, and Kawai, the 63kg champ in Brazil, split previous matches in December and June, marking Icho’s first defeat to a countrywoman in 17 years. Kawai moved down in weight for this Olympic cycle and into direct competition with Icho.

Kawai will clinch Japan’s lone available 2020 Olympic 57kg berth if she makes the podium at worlds in Kazakhstan in September. Icho will not try to qualify for Tokyo in another weight class should Kawai succeed, her coach said, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

“Now I wait,” Icho said, according to Kyodo. “[Five straight Olympic golds] is a rare feat, something highly out of the ordinary. My desire going forward to attract people to wrestling — either as a competitor or a coach — is unchanged.”

Icho once held a 13-year win streak 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). By 2020, she will be older than any men’s wrestling champion since Bulgarian Valentin Yordanov in 1996.

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Japan Olympic legend avenges first home loss in 17 years in comeback

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Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho is off to a strong start in a bid to be the first person to earn individual gold medals at five Olympics.

Icho, 34, won a national title after taking two years off after the Rio Games, beating fellow Olympic champion Risako Kawai in Sunday’s 57kg final. A day earlier, Kawai handed Icho her first loss to a countrywoman in 17 years, according to Kyodo News.

This weekend’s Emperor’s Cup was the first event of a two-pronged qualification for September’s world championships and is the first tournament with Olympic qualifying implications in Japan, according to United World Wrestling.

“I felt a kind of nervous tension like I hadn’t in a long time,” Icho said of her second tournament back, according to Kyodo. “I still have room to grow, to improve, and now I want to take stock of the issues that arose with my performance today and make use of those lessons.”

Icho earned 58kg gold in Rio, while Kawai, a decade younger, was the 63kg champion. Kawai earned 59kg and 60kg world titles the last two years.

The weight classes alter slightly for Tokyo 2020 with 57kg and 62kg divisions.

Icho once held a 13-year win streak 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). By 2020, she will be older than any men’s wrestling champion since Bulgarian Valentin Yordanov in 1996.

Icho is the lone woman to earn individual gold medals at four Olympics, joining a group of men including Michael PhelpsCarl Lewis and Al Oerter.

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