By Bob Condron
CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY (March 21) – Three-time Olympic gold medalist wrestler Kaori Icho (JPN) has been appointed by the International Olympic Committee to serve as an Athlete Role Model (ARM) for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
Icho, 29, is one of the most successful women wrestlers in the history of the sport having won eight world championships in addition to her three Olympic titles. She is currently on a record-setting 153-match winning streak.
“I think that to be selected as a role model for young athletes is an honor,” said Icho. “To be a model for young athletes I believe it is important that I show them that I want to do best in my career as an athlete.”
“Kaori Icho is a great champion and the perfect fit for the honor of Athlete Role Model,” said FILA President Nenad Lalovic. “FILA is committed to growing the sport of women’s wrestling and we are fortunate to have such an inspirational athlete to spread wrestling’s message to young female athletes around the world.”
Known for her attack-first style of wrestling and world-level technique, Icho stands as a modern legend in an Olympic sport only made available to women in 2004. In 2013 FILA announced the addition of two new women’s weight categories, increasing the number of Olympic weights from four to six. The additional weight classes prompted Icho to move from 63kg to her more natural weight of 60kg where she is currently the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the world.
In 2010 FILA nominated 1967 world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Daniel Robin to be their ARM at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. A champion wrestler and longtime technical delegate Robin spoke about longevity and professionalism in the sporting world. Icho believes that her role as ARM will be to inspire and instruct the next generation of Olympic wrestlers.
“I am committed to teaching children to feel the joy of wrestling. If they enjoy it, they will continue for a long time,” said Icho. “When I was a child, we had wrestling practice twice a week, but it wasn’t enough, and I could hardly wait for the next practice day.”
“I think that teaching kids to enjoy wrestling is the ideal feeling for building champions.”
The Youth Olympic Games are being held August 16-28 in Nanjing, China with the wrestling competition taking place August 25-27.