18 years ago today was the beginning of one of the greatest legacies in the history of the sport. Kaori Icho would solidify her legacy amongst the all time greats in the sport when she won her 4th olympic gold medal at the Rio olympics.
Some thing a lot of people do not talk about enough is how good Kaori Icho’s sister was as well. Chiharu Icho was a 2x olympic silver medalist and a 3x world champion in her own right which makes this one of the greatest wrestling sibling duos of all time.
Icho winning her 4th olympic gold medal in Rio was possibly the biggest event in recent history along with Mijain Lopez-Nunez of Cuba accomplishing the feat in Tokyo.
Let’s take a look at her run at the Athens olympic games in 2004. Coming into the olympic games Icho was already a 2x world champion winning titles in 2002 and 2003.
The 20 year old would be looking to become one of the first women’s olympic champs in the history of the sport being that the sport was only added into the olympic schedule in 2004.
Along with Icho getting this done her teammate who would also go on to become a 3x olympic champ and silver medalist Saori Yoshida would claim her first olympic gold at the inaugural women’s olympics.
Icho would win all of her matches at the olympics with ease in the pool and classification rounds before the championships bracket. She would defeat Lisa Legrand of France in the semifinals 4-0 and Sara McMann of the United States in the finals 3-2 to claim olympic gold.
Icho is the only wrestler that has competed in the at least 4 olympic games to go undefeated at the games. This is alongside names like Mijain Lopez, Saori Yoshida, Aleksandr Karelin, Bruce Baumgartner and more.
To add to that Icho has never lost at the world championships which she also has a staggering 10 gold medals from. Putting her cumulative medal count at 14 and 2nd place all time.
She along with Yoshida are the two main pioneers of Japan in women’s wrestling and with a combined 30 gold medals their’s alone are more than any other country in women’s wrestling and almost a third of Japan’s 99 cumulative gold medals.
Icho’s legacy continues to this day being that the 58kg weight class where she won her 4th gold (now 57kg) was won by none other than fellow countrywoman Risako Kawai as she picked up her 2nd olympic gold this past cycle and will be looking for a third pretty soon.