January 8, 2019 / 9:42 AM / 8 months ago

Wrestling: Triple Olympic gold medalist Yoshida retires

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Saori Yoshida reacts after defeating Canada's Tonya Lynn Verbeek on the final of the Women's 55Kg Freestyle wrestling at the ExCel venue during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s three-times Olympic wrestling champion Saori Yoshida announced her retirement on Tuesday at the age of 36.

Yoshida, who also won silver at Rio 2016, made the announcement on Twitter.

“I have decided to end the 33 years of being a wrestler,” she said. “Thanks to all your encouragement and support.”

The freestyle wrestler is a 13-times world champion, most recently winning the 53kg category in Las Vegas in 2015.

Yoshida had dominated the sport ever since her first world championship in 2002 until she was defeated by American Helen Maroulis in the Rio final for her only loss at an Olympic Games.

She was also part of the Japanese lobbying team that persuaded the International Olympic Committee to retain wrestling at the Tokyo 2020 Games and has been coaching the Japanese national team in the build-up to their home Olympics next year.

Her decision to retire so close to Tokyo 2020 surprised many of her fans on Twitter.

“Such a shame as I was looking forward to seeing you on the Tokyo 2020 wrestling mat,” one user commented on her post.

“I was moved and encouraged many, many times by your fighting sprit,” another said.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Additional reporting my Mayuko Ono; Editing by David Goodman

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