Toshihiko Koga who won a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics has
died at 53 years old, officials in Japan confirmed
Koga was hospitalized last spring after his cancer diagnosis and underwent surgery.
Sadly the disease got the better of the Japanese icon this week.
In his first run in the 1988 Seoul Olympics with the Japanese national team,
Koga failed to claim the medal — but just four years later in Barcelona, he won gold,
battling through a leg injury to come out with the medal.
At the ensuing 1996 Games in Atlanta, he won a silver medal in the -78 kg division.
Koga ended up retiring four years later in 2000 … and went on to coach the Japanese
women’s judo team. He was so successful in that role, one of his students, Ayumi
Tanimoto went on to win a gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Koga was famous for his legendary ippon-seoi-nage throw and youngsters across
Japan are said to still emulate him today. He famously said:
“I think you always have to have an open mind to take new approaches and new paths
in solving problems.”And that was his approach until the end of his days,
according to those close to him. Fellow Barcelona medal winner Hidehiko Yoshida
said: “I’m still in a state of total disbelief. When Koga won at the Barcelona Olympics,
I felt more joy than when I won myself. That both of us won gold medals is something
I treasure.”Japan’s national judo team manager Kosei Inoue added:
“In addition to an amazing feel for judo, Mr. Koga had superb insight,
along with his speed and power.”Off the mat, he always had a smile on his face
and would cheerfully chat with me. His death came too soon,
and he will be missed by the judo world.”As well as his Olympic success,
Koga also claimed world championship glory three times.
His first title was Belgrade 1989 before winning again in Barcelona in 1991 and
Chiba in 1995. After retiring from competition, Koga coached Japan’s women’s
national judo team.