Photo/IllutrationKoji Gushiken, right, a vice chairman of the Japan Gymnastics Association, talks with reporters in Tokyo on Aug. 30. (Shiro Nishihata)

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An 18-year-old gymnast who said she was physically abused by her club coach is now accusing the head coach of the national women’s team and her husband of “power harassment.”

The Japan Gymnastics Association held an emergency meeting on Aug. 30 and decided to establish a committee of outsiders to investigate the allegations made by Sae Miyakawa.

Miyakawa said at a news conference on Aug. 29 that she had been the victim of power harassment from Chieko Tsukahara, 71, the national women’s team head coach, and her husband, Mitsuo, 70, a vice chairman of the JGA.

The teenager said she felt the influential couple in Japanese gymnastics circles abused their authority in matters mainly related to her training.

The Tsukaharas, who have long managed a gymnastics club that has produced a number of Olympic athletes, did not attend the Aug. 30 JGA meeting.

However, Mitsuo Tsukahara responded to questions from The Asahi Shimbun and said he would fully cooperate with the investigation.

“In the 44 years since I became a coach, I have given instructions while always thinking first about the athlete,” he said. “That was the same with Miyakawa, but if that feeling was not transmitted to her, then it is regrettable.”

The allegations against the Tsukaharas stem from earlier action taken by the JGA against Miyakawa’s long-time club coach, Yuto Hayami, 34.

On Aug. 15, the association announced that Hayami was banned indefinitely for acts of violence against Miyakawa.

At her news conference, the gymnast acknowledged that Hayami had slapped her face and pulled her hair, but she said the indefinite ban was too severe a penalty.

“My dream had always been to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics (in 2020) by having Hayami coach me,” she said.

At the same time, she said she felt afraid when the Tsukaharas told her that Hayami was no good as a coach, and that Miyakawa would improve 100 times if she was coached by them.

The allegations against the couple caught association officials by surprise.

“Miyakawa’s news conference was the first time I had heard about power harassment, and I was very surprised,” JGA Vice Chairman Koji Gushiken, who won the gold medal in the men’s all-around at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, told reporters on Aug. 30. “We must resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”

Gushiken said the results of the investigation by the third-party committee would be revealed before the start of the world gymnastics championships in Doha, Qatar, in late October.

The issue with Hayami was not the only problem concerning the Tsukaharas, according to Miyakawa.

After the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the JGA set up a new system of selecting certain athletes for development with an eye toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Those chosen athletes would be allowed to join special training sessions held over the course of the year both in Japan and abroad.

Miyakawa did not initially take part because the plans for training were not specific.

At the news conference, she quoted Chieko Tsukahara as telling her, “If you do not take part, the association will not be able to provide cooperation and you will not be able to participate in the Tokyo Olympics.”

Miyakawa said she wanted that action to be recognized as power harassment because she “felt it was a form of violence using authority” on the part of Chieko Tsukahara.

Although Miyakawa was a member of the women’s team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, she said she would not enter the world championships later this year because she was not physically or mentally prepared.

This is the latest in a series of scandals this year involving Japanese athletes.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist wrestler Kaori Icho said she was the victim of power harassment by a long-time coach of the national women’s team coach. The coach later resigned.

Scandals in other forms have engulfed the top official at the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation and the Nihon University American football team.