It's fairly commonplace for an Olympian to seek out their coach to celebrate with after winning gold in their event. After all, few know the sacrifice and sweat an Olympic victory truly entails better than an athlete's coach. But slamming your coach to the ground like a rag doll? That's not something you see every day. For Japan's Risako Kawai, however, there was no better way to celebrate winning the gold medal in women's 63kg freestyle wrestling than by playfully slamming her coach to the mat.
With a 3-0 win against Belarus' Maria Mamashuk on Thursday, 21-year-old Kawai captured Japan's fourth gold medal in women's wrestling at the Rio Games. Her coach, Kazuhito Sakae, was clearly elated, jumping up and down in celebration as Kawai took a moment to catch her breath on the mat and let reality sink in. As Sakae, a 56-year-old retired World Champion who now trains many of the nation's top wrestlers, walks over with his arms outstretched to embrace Kawai in celebration, the newly minted gold medalist slams him to the ground, not once, but twice!
Rest assured, the celebration was pre-planned and meant to be goodhearted fun with Sakae in on the joke. "Before the final, the coach said he wanted me to lift him on his shoulders," Kawai told the Japan Times. "The three wrestlers the previous day all won gold so they got to do that, and I said I wanted to be first to slam him and he let me do it."
After their playful celebratory tussle, Kawai did indeed lift Sakae on to her shoulders for a victory lap around the arena with the Japanese flag. It's a new take on Sakae's tradition of lifting the wrestlers he trains onto his shoulders when they win a medal. He lifted Kaori Icho onto his shoulders for a victory lap when she won her second gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and he's carried Saori Yoshida, one of Japan's dominant female wrestlers, on his shoulders a few different times over the years following her gold medal victories.
While even qualifying to compete in the Olympics is a feat worth celebrating, there's nothing quite like winning a gold medal. It's nice to see athletes let loose and relish in their victory in such joyous ways. In fact, it's special moments like these that not only make the Olympics worth watching but come to define the Games.