Photo/IllutrationThree-time Olympic wrestling champion Saori Yoshida announces her retirement at a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 10. (Shiro Nishihata)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

After tossing around opponents for 33 years and winning three straight Olympic gold medals, wresting great Saori Yoshida thanked her parents and called it a career.

“I strongly felt that I have done everything that I could do, which made me decide to retire from wrestling,” Yoshida, 36, said at a news conference at a Tokyo hotel on Jan. 10. “I am really pleased to have been able to wrestle for 33 years.”

Yoshida won gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Games in the 55-kilogram category.

She also won 13 consecutive world championships.

Yoshida was praised as “the strongest woman among primates” and received the government’s People’s Honor Award.

Her last match came at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she settled for silver.

She said she had thought that competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be the best way to repay her fans for their support.

But after seeing the strength and momentum of younger wrestlers, Yoshida said she felt that now would be the right time to retire.

Yoshida’s father, Eikatsu, first taught her how to wrestle when she was 3 years old.

“I think that from heaven, he would say that I did really well,” Yoshida said.

Her mother, Yukiyo, gave flowers to her daughter and spoke a few words at the news conference.

“Thirty-three years passed so quickly. She is a good daughter who took me to the Olympics and world championships,” Yukiyo said.

When asked to pick her most memorable match, Yoshida selected one of the rare ones in which she lost.

It was her last match, held at the Rio Games, and it halted Yoshida’s consecutive winning streak at 206.

“I learned from my defeat that I would not have been able to carry through without my rivals,” Yoshida said. “The silver medal made me mature.”

As for her future plans, she said she wants to serve as a coach for the Japan team at the Tokyo Olympics.

She also repeated her desire to get married, saying she wants to seek “happiness as a woman.”