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Suspended senior official again denies harassing Olympic gymnast

This photo shows Chieko Tsukahara (R) and her husband Mitsuo Tsukahara. Mitsuko's photo was supplied by the Japanese Olympic Committee. (Kyodo)
Gymnast Sae Miyakawa speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on Aug. 29, 2018. (Kyodo)

TOKYO -- A senior Japan Gymnastics Association (JGA) official temporarily suspended on Sept. 10 for her alleged harassment of a female Olympic gymnast has once again denied the charge, and her husband, also an executive with the body who was suspended the same day, revealed that he reprimanded the gymnast's coach for his training technique, such as keeping the athlete standing for a long period of time.

Chieko Tsukahara, who was responsible for the association's athlete performance enhancement, told reporters on Sept. 9 that she did not harass the gymnast, Rio 2016 Olympian Sae Miyakawa, 19. In August, Miyakawa told a press conference that Tsukahara said she might not be able to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics over her refusal to join the association's training project to enhance athletes' performance to win Olympic medals.

Miyakawa also claimed that she was not sent overseas for competitions and other opportunities for two years for her stance on the program. Her coach, Yuto Hayami, almost echoed her statement as something conveyed to him by Tsukahara during the summer of last year. Hayami's registration as a coach was removed indefinitely by the JGA in August for his physical abuse of Miyakawa, which he later acknowledged and apologized.

Tsukahara said in the latest press conference that she did not tell Hayami that Miyakawa was not being sent overseas because she did not join the JGA training program. "We send younger athletes (overseas) to build up their experience," Tsukahara explained. She also revealed that she intended to retire as the JGA's training program chief after the world championship in Doha in October and November. Tsukahara said she was focused on having athletes qualify for the Olympics, in the hopes of making the experience her final professional achievement. "It's unfortunate that things have turned out this way," she said.

Meanwhile, Tsukahara's husband and JGA deputy chairman Mitsuo told the same press conference that during the 2016 Rio Games, he reprimanded Hayami for keeping Miyakawa standing for a long period of time. "Gymnasts and their coaches conduct one-on-one training sessions, but I did not create an environment where people could report violence," Mitsuo said.

(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Tahara, Sports News Department)

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