Japan gymnastics assn. officials deny alleged harassment of Olympian

Two senior officials of the gymnastics governing body denied on Friday a harassment allegation made by an Olympic gymnast but admitted some of their words and actions may have been inappropriate.

«We have never uttered threatening words to Miyakawa,» Chieko Tsukahara and her husband Mitsuo Tsukahara said in a statement, responding to the allegation made by Sae Miyakawa, a 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympian. «We apologize for deeply hurting her feelings,» they added.

(Mitsuo Tsukahara, left, and his wife Chieko)

The Japan Gymnastics Association said an independent committee will investigate the alleged harassment. The Tsukaharas said they will consider whether to resign after seeing the outcome of the investigation.

The 18-year-old Olympian claimed at a press conference on Wednesday that Chieko Tsukahara, who is in charge of training the women’s national team, said she could lose her spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as she had initially refused to join the association’s training project.

Chieko Tsukahara said in the statement that she had intended to tell Miyakawa it would be difficult for her to join the national team as the gymnast had injured her ankle and performed poorly recently, but she had not threatened Miyakawa.

She also denied being «heavy-handed» with Miyakawa when conducting a hearing on violence inflicted by Miyakawa’s coach, adding she recorded the conversation during the hearing.

(Sae Miyakawa, right, and her coach Yuto Hayami in June 2016)

Miyakawa initially held the press conference on Wednesday to argue that the association’s punishment of her coach was too strict and it was using the issue as a pretext to separate her from her coach.

Japanese sport has been plagued by allegations of violence and harassment in recent months, including sumo, wrestling and American football.

All — Kyodo News+

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