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Japan Olympic legends to start Tokyo 2020 torch relay in Greece

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Japanese Olympic gold medalists Mizuki Noguchi (marathon), Tadahiro Nomura (judo) and Saori Yoshida (wrestling) will be among the torchbearers for the Tokyo 2020 torch relay’s first eight days in Greece in March.

Noguchi will be the first Japanese torchbearer and second overall, receiving the Olympic Flame from a Greek during the traditional lighting ceremony in Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, on March 12.

The Olympic Flame will spend eight days in Greece before being flown to Japan to start a 121-day trek leading to the July 24 Opening Ceremony. The Japanese part of the relay begins in the tsunami-affected prefecture of Fukushima.

Noguchi won the 2004 Athens Olympic marathon that began in Marathon and ended at the Panathenaic Stadium used for the first modern Olympics in 1896.

Nomura is the only judoka with three Olympic gold medals, winning the lightest male division (60kg or 132 pounds) in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

The wrestler Yoshida is also a three-time Olympic champion, plus a 13-time world champion between 53kg and 55kg. She retired after being dethroned by American Helen Maroulis in a bid for a fourth gold in Rio.

Others to be the first host-nation athletes to carry the Olympic Flame in Olympia included South Korean soccer player Park Ji-sung, Brazilian volleyball player Giovane Gavio and Russian hockey player Alex Ovechkin.

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MORE: Olympic marathons moved from Tokyo to Sapporo

Iran banned from world judo until it agrees to face Israel

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Iran was banned from international judo competitions Tuesday for refusing to let its athletes fight Israeli opponents.

The International Judo Federation imposed an indefinite ban on Iran’s team until it promises to end a long-running boycott of Israel.

The IJF’s disciplinary commission said the ban will stand “until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and prove that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

The commission said Iran broke rules on non-discrimination and the manipulation of competition results.

The ruling comes after 2018 World champion Saeid Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in August, saying he had been ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions so as not to face Israelis.

The IJF accused Iranian government officials of putting pressure on athletes including Mollaei, who is now in hiding in Germany. Iran has already missed some events because it was provisionally suspended last month pending the full disciplinary ruling.

The IJF has previously said any measures taken against Iran won’t apply directly to next year’s Olympics, because athletes are technically entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the national judo federation.

However, qualifying for the Olympics depends in large part on world ranking points from IJF events.

Iran can appeal the IJF ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The measure comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee is pushing back against boycotts and other political demonstrations in sports.

In June, IOC President Thomas Bach criticized governments who “clearly abuse sport for their political purposes,” noting a case in May of a Tunisian court blocking four Israelis from competing at the world junior taekwondo championships.

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MORE: Judo athletes forget to leave cell phones off the mat

Judo athletes forget to leave cell phones off the mat

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In a recent youth judo international event, a referee noticed something on the mat he couldn’t really miss — a cell phone that had suddenly appeared. 

He stopped the action and asked both athletes how this phone made its way to the midst of a grappling tangle. One finally admitted the phone was hers. See the video.

But it’s not just kids. In the Baku Grand Slam earlier this year, Portuguese athlete Anri Egutidze was disqualified after a phone fell from his gi in mid-grapple.

Despite that loss, Egutidze is ranked 17th in his weight class. And if more judokas bring their phones onto the mat, maybe they can check their rankings while fending off an armbar.

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