TOKYO - Grieving Olympic champion Saori Yoshida said she felt the presence of her late father on the wrestling mat after leading Japan to the World Cup women's team title just five days after his sudden death.
Yoshida held up a portrait of her father Eikatsu, a coach of the women's team, after the final and clutched a pouch containing his ashes on the victory podium following Japan's win on Sunday.
It was a brave performance by the emotional Yoshida, whose 61-year-old father suffered a brain haemorrhage en route to Tokyo for the team's training camp and was found dead in his car last Tuesday.
Yoshida, 31, attended the funeral and despite her grief and a knee injury she battled through the two-day event to help Japan win their seventh title.
Afterwards Yoshida, with 11 straight 55kg world freestyle titles, she said she would go for her fourth Olympic title in a row at the 2016 Games in honour of her father.
"He (Eikatsu) used to sit in the stands or in the second's corner," Yoshida told media after Japan's 8-0 win over Russia in the final.
"Today, I felt my father was out there with me on the mat," she said. "I felt my father's power."
"At the (2016) Rio Olympics, I want to go for a fourth straight title for my father," Yoshida added.
The Japanese great started wrestling at the age of just three under her father's guidance.
She said she was not the first athlete to compete while in mourning, citing Japanese figure skater Mao Asada who won her fifth national title in 2011 shortly after her mother's death.
"I am not the only one who is feeling this way," she said.