Photo/IllutrationKaori Icho tilts her head in disappointment after her opponent, Risako Kawai, scores a point in the 57-kg qualification playoff for the World Wrestling Championships in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, on July 6. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

WAKO, Saitama Prefecture--Wrestling great Kaori Icho's hopes to represent Japan at the Tokyo Olympics for a fifth consecutive gold medal suffered a crushing setback on July 6.

Icho, 35, lost to Risako Kawai, another Olympic gold medalist, in the qualification playoff in the 57-kg category for the World Wrestling Championships.

Icho’s slim chances to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in that weight category rest on how Kawai fares in the world championships to be held in Kazakhstan in September.

If Kawai, 24, wins any medal, it will automatically secure her spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

Kawai won gold in the 63-kg category in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Icho said she will just wait to see how things play out. She did not announce any plans to retire from the sport.

“I entered the playoff, being prepared,” Icho said after the match. “I have no regrets, and Risako was stronger than I was.”

Icho won a gold medal for the fourth straight Olympics in Rio, making her the first woman in any sport to win an individual gold at four consecutive Olympics.

She returned to wrestling in October last year after a long layoff and the resolution of a highly public scandal involving the filing of power harassment charges against her former coach.

“Many people offered me support, including my fellow wrestlers and my family,” Icho said tearfully upon her return to the sport.

If Kawai represents Japan in the 57-kg category at the Tokyo Olympics, Icho could try to qualify in another weight category that a Japanese female wrestler has not won a medal in the world championships in Kazakhstan.

But her coach, Chikara Tanabe, ruled out that possibility.