JAPANESE Judo legend Toshihiko Koga has died aged 53.
The Olympic gold medallist lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday surrounded by his family in Kawasaki, Japan.
Koga was hospitalised last spring after his cancer diagnosis and underwent surgery.
And the disease sadly got the better of the Japanese icon this week.
Having missed out on a podium spot in Seoul in 1988, Koga won gold in the men's -71kg event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
He also won silver four years later in the -78kg category at Atlanta 1996.
Koga was famous for his legendary ippon-seoi-nage throw and youngsters across Japan are said to still emulate him today.
Ha famously said: "I think you always have to have an open mind to take new approaches and new paths in solving problems."
And that was his approach until the end of his days, according to those close to him.
Fellow Barcelona medal winner Hidehiko Yoshida said: "I'm still in a state of total disbelief. When Koga won at the Barcelona Olympics, I felt more joy than when I won myself. That both of us won gold medals is something I treasure."
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Japan's national judo team manager Kosei Inoue added: "In addition to an amazing feel for judo, Mr. Koga had superb insight, along with his speed and power.
"Off the mat, he always had a smile on his face and would cheerfully chat with me. His death came too soon, and he will be missed by the judo world."
As well as his Olympic success, Koga also claimed world championship glory three times.
His first title was Belgrade 1989 before winning again in Barcelona in 1991 and Chiba in 1995.
After retiring from competition, Koga coached Japan's women's national judo team.
Koga was scheduled to take part on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay which started on Thursday in Fukashima.
Japan's women's football team started the 120-day torch relay in eerie circumstances as they ran through sparsely populated streets.
The 2011 World Cup winner Azusa Iwashimizu kicked-off proceedings as she carried the torch through Nahara – a community evacuated after the infamous 2011 meltdown at the Fukashima nuclear power plant.
A short opening ceremony took place on a football pitch in the J-Village training complex to officially start the torch's journey which will take it through 859 locations before it ends up at the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium on July 23.
The Games have already been shrouded in controversy with many Japanese arguing they should be cancelled or postponed again.
Overseas fans have already been banned from attending.
And only last week Games chief Hiroshi Sasaki resigned after attempting to get a woman to dress as a PIG for the opening ceremony.
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