I saw a beautiful backflip 15 years ago at the Athens Olympics wrestling venue.

High, fast and smooth, it was executed by Saori Yoshida, who had just won the gold medal in the women's freestyle 55-kg event and could not contain her joy.

It was Yoshida's first Olympic gold, won at long last after years of enduring the tremendous pressure that came from being told constantly that nobody in the world could match up to her, and that there was no reason why she should not win a gold medal.

I still remember the profound emotion on the face of her father, Eikatsu, while her mother, Yukiyo, cried her eyes out.

Yoshida started wrestling when she was around 3 years old. Her father, a former all-Japan champion, coached her and her two older brothers at their home in the town of Ichishi (present-day city of Tsu) in Mie Prefecture.

Being scolded by her father during practice would reduce her to tears. But one day, she resolved to stop that.

"I will practice without crying," she wrote on a piece of paper and hung it in her room.

She was 5 when she had her first bout in a children's wrestling event. A boy won the championship, and a gold medal was hung around his neck.

She wanted the medal and told her father so. But he explained to her, "That's something given only to someone who has worked really hard and become strong enough to earn it. It's not sold at the supermarket or the convenience store."

Yoshida won as many as three Olympic gold medals--none of which money can buy--while in her 20s. She was favored to win her fourth at the Rio Olympics, but ended up with silver.

The words that tumbled out of her mouth immediately after losing in the final match were those of apology to her father, who had died unexpectedly two years before: "I'm sorry. My father is going to scold me."

Hearing her say this, I realized to what extent her years of sustained success owed to her family's support.

Yoshida, now 36, was to hold a news conference on Jan. 10 to announce her retirement. She must have reached this decision after mulling it over and over.

I applaud her for all the hard work she put in, and thank her entire family for always backing her.

My only regret is that I won't be seeing again that backflip of victory she did at the Athens Olympics. I am already missing it.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 10

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.