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Wrestling: JWF apologizes to Icho over harassment, vows to fix policy

Kaori Icho (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japan Wrestling Federation said Friday it has apologized to four-time Olympic champion Kaori Icho and other athletes for the power harassment they suffered at the hands of former JWF development director Kazuhito Sakae.

Chairman Tomiaki Fukuda met with Icho early this month to issue an apology and explain steps the association is taking to prevent similar incidents.

"We will return to a philosophy of putting athletes first and promise to give utmost support to all wrestlers, including Icho," Fukuda said in a statement from the federation.

Sakae, 58, who resigned in April after the scandal came to light, publicly apologized to Icho in June. He was later dismissed as head coach of the Shigakkan University wrestling team, where Icho used to train along with three-time Olympic gold medalist Saori Yoshida.

In a statement released Friday, Icho said she was focused on getting back into competition and building up the sport of wrestling.

"I want to keep doing my best to help wrestling develop as an attractive sport," the statement said.

A complaint against Sakae was submitted to a Cabinet Office committee in January.

A third-party group of lawyers conducted an investigation and confirmed on April 6 four cases of harassment against the 34-year-old Icho by Sakae, including one concerning a remark he made when Icho joined a training session of wrestlers representing Japan.

According to the report by the third-party body, Sakae said to Icho, "How dare you wrestle in front of me?"

Icho, who has not competed since winning the 58-kilogram division at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, is preparing to return to the mat with the aim of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

She is expected to enter the All Japan Women's Open Championships in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Oct. 13 and 14.

"I'm practicing with a view to getting into shape for competition," Icho said.

The first woman in any sport to win individual gold at four consecutive Olympics, Icho is reportedly eyeing competing in a lighter division than 58 kg in Tokyo.

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