Japan wrestling star Yoshida taps out before Olympics

Japan wrestling star Yoshida taps out before Olympics

Despite 'wavering', Yoshida has decided to call it a day
Despite "wavering", Yoshida has decided to call it a day. (Photo: AFP/Behrouz Mehri)

TOKYO: Japan's Saori Yoshida, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, confirmed Thursday (Jan 10) she is retiring from wrestling despite "wavering" at the thought of missing the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"I decided to retire with the feeling that I've done enough in wrestling," said Yoshida, who is a popular figure in Japan and regularly appears on local television shows.

She admitted "wavering, with the feeling that I want to participate in the Tokyo Olympics," but said she had ultimately decided it was time to pass the baton to younger athletes.

The 36-year-old topped the podium in the women's 55kg division at three straight Summer Games between 2004 and 2012, but fell short of a fourth straight gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, settling for silver in the 53kg division.

She was left in tears at the Rio games after her shock defeat by American Helen Maroulis, and said the experience meant the silver she earned then was the most memorable of all 17 of her medals.

"At that match, I really learned how defeated athletes had felt. Until then, I'd only felt the joy of being able to stand on the highest podium," she said.

Yoshida began wrestling at the age of three in central Japan's Mie region, where her father ran a wrestling school.

She won her maiden world championship in 2002 and went on to claim 13 consecutive titles.

A recipient of the Japanese government's People's Honour Award for her record number of consecutive world titles, Yoshida said she now plans to help coach the national team.

"As we will have the Tokyo Olympics next year, I would also like to help," she said.

"I don't have coaching experience, but I hope to do what I can without being an annoyance to other coaches," she added.

Source: AFP/zl