Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho and the Pursuit of Wrestling Perfection

Saori Yoshida will compete in Olympic wrestling for Japan at her 4th Olympics. Yoshida won gold medals in 55 kg freestyle wrestling in 2004, 2008, and 2012. She has never lost an international competition. In addition to her 3 Olympic golds, she has won every World Championship since 2002, winning 13 titles, and four golds at the Asian Games in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. She has lost only 2 matches since 2002, her last in 2012. Because of new weight classes in Rio, she will compete in the 53 kg class.

Yoshida’s teammate, Kaori Icho, has been almost as dominant as Yoshida. She won gold medals in Olympic wrestling in the 63 kg freestyle class in 2004, 2008, and 2012, and has won 10 World Championships, and the 2006 Asian Games gold medal. Icho was undefeated from 2003-16, but lost a Grand Prix match in January 2016.

Here is what they can achieve with another gold medal in wrestling at Rio.

If They Win Gold in Rio, Saori Yoshida and/or Kaori Icho Will …

  • Become the first Olympic wrestlers, male or female, to win 4 gold medals. With 3 gold medals, they are currently tied with 6 men – Aleksandr Karelin (URS/EUN/RUS), Artur Taymazov (UZB), Aleksandr Medved (URS), Ivar Johansson (SWE), Buvaisa Saytiyev (RUS), and Carl Westergren (SWE).
  • Become the first woman to win 4 Olympic medals in wrestling, although the sport has only been on the Olympic Program since 2004. Wilfried Dietrich (FRG/GER) won 5 Olympic wrestling medals, while 7 men have won 4 wrestling medals.
  • Tie for 7th among Olympic women in any sport, with 4 individual gold medals. They would trail Věra Čáslavská (TCH-GYM), with 7; Larysa Latynina (URS-GYM) and Lidiya Skoblikova (URS-SSK), with 6; and Nadia Comăneci (ROU-SWI), Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN-SWI), and Bonnie Blair (USA-SSK), with 5.
  • Become the first women to win individual gold medals at 4 consecutive Olympic Games. Yoshida and Icho are currently tied among 14 such women.
  • Move to =4th on the list of women winning gold medals at the most consecutive Olympics. The list is led by Birgit Fischer-Schmidt (GDR/GER-CAN), with 6, who won medals in 1980 and 1988-2004. That would have been an all-time Olympic best 7 had East Germany not boycotted the 1984 Olympics. Two women have won gold medals at 5 Olympics – Valentina Vezzali (ITA-FEN), consecutively from 1996-2012; and Elisabeta Oleniuc-Lipă (ROU-ROW) in 1984, and 1992-2004.
  • Become the 4th and/or 5th Olympians to win 4 consecutive individual gold medals in the “same” event. The others are Paul Elvstrøm (DEN-SAI) in one-handed dinghy yachting from 1948-60 (although the 1948 class was slightly different); Al Oerter (USA-ATH) in the discus throw; and Carl Lewis (USA-ATH) in the long jump. Now “same” is in quotes because Yoshida’s class will change slightly in Rio, moving from 55 kg to 53 kg. Spare me that argument. This feat may also be equalled in Rio by Michael Phelps (USA-SWI) in the 100 m butterfly and the 200 m IM (noted by, and with thanx to, reader Brian Carberry).

2 thoughts on “Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho and the Pursuit of Wrestling Perfection”

  1. I concur with this article. I would like to point out that the status of these two ladies becoming the 4th and 5th Olympians to 4-peat in individual events is contingent upon the results of the Men’s 100 M Butterfly and Men’s 200 M IM earlier in the Rio Olympic program whereas Michael Phelps may have also 4-peated prior to 8/18/2016 when these finals will take place. They may be the 5th and/or 6th.

  2. I sincerely felt compassion toward Saori Yoshida. I am very loyal to my country, U.S.A. and proud of our champion, but why does one person have to crumble in humiliation. Saori is still a fantastic wrestler.

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