We’ve made it through the first dozen days of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and to say it went smoothly would be a gross overstatement. Its been a Games that has quickly become one of the most critically panned and historically marred Olympic Games to go without any sort of terror event. Stories of match fixing at the hands of Irish man Michael Conlan in men’s boxing, numerous robberies – both true (Great Britain’s …) and possibly not so true (sorry Lochte) – and then all the booing nonsense that’s been happening during the track and field events have all but superseded the competition within the short week and a half time frame of the Rio Games.
But following a day that saw Usain Bolt make his way toward wining another gold in the men’s 200m semifinal to qualify for the final on Day 13, the biggest story of dominance wasn’t on the track, but rather, on the mat – the wrestling mat, more specifically. We’ve heard all about dominant athletes like Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and the world’s fastest man, Mr. Bolt, but why hasn’t anyone been talking about women’s wrestling’s most dominant force?
“Well, who is that force, Sean?” you might be asking. Fair enough, the aforementioned master of the mat is none other than Japan’s Kaori Icho. Wrestling in the women’s freestyle 58 kg weightclass, Icho defeated Russia’s Valeria Koblova despite trailing for nearly the entire match. The win was so dramatic that Icho didn’t seal her victory until the last five seconds of the match, as she grabbed Koblova from behind as an unintentional counter move and effectively pinning her to win gold.
The win marked Icho’s fourth consecutive gold medal in 13 years after being undefeated for that entire time. Icho, ever the humble stoic, stated that these Olympics were the first Olympic Games where she “actually began to feel fear.” Talk about trying to take the wind out of your own sails, especially after winning gold. Anyway, while everyone debates over Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt and their legacies as Olympic legends, just remember that Kaori Icho is a 4-time gold medalist over 13 years in arguably the most classically “Olympic” event ever.