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Olympics

Former Fencer Yuki Ota Among Quartet of New IOC Athletes’ Commission Members

Longtime NBA star Pau Gasol, Italian swimming icon Federica Pellegrini and cyclist Maja Włoszczowska are the other new members.

Ed Odeven

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Yuki Ota

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The International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission has selected four new members to serve seven-year terms until the Closing Ceremony of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

An announcement was made on Wednesday, August 4, when the votes were released.

Spain’s Pau Gasol, a five-time Olympic basketball player, received the most votes (1,888), followed by the other three new members, Polish cyclist Maja Wloszczowska (with 1,674 votes), Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini (1,658) and former Japanese fencer Yuki Ota (1,616).

A total of 6,825 Olympians cast votes during the Athletes’ Commission election period, between July 13 and August 3. There was a 61.27% participation rate among Olympians.

Thirty candidates, active and former athletes, from 30 nations and 19 sports in total were on the ballot.

Gasol, who won a pair of NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010 and also helped lead Spain to the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championship title at Saitama Super Arena, and his new Athletes’ Commission colleagues will replace a quartet of members whose terms have expired.

“I’m very happy to be part of the Athletes’ Commission of the IOC,” Gasol wrote on Twitter. “I want to thank all of the athletes for having supported me on this road and congratulate the other members who were selected. All of us working together can make a difference!”

Wloszczowska is a four-time Olympian. Pellegrini competed in her fifth Olympics at the Tokyo Games, while Ota served as the Japan Fencing Federation chairman from 2017 until earlier this year. He retired from competition following the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Ota, a 2015 world champion in the individual foil event, became Japan’s first Olympic fencing medalist (silver, men’s individual) at the 2008 Beijing Games. He collected silver in the team foil competition four years later at the London Games.

The 35-year-old Ota, who is a native of Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, is the first Japanese elected to the Athletes’ Commission, which was established in 1996.

As a result of being elected to the commission, the four new appointees are now IOC members. Ota joins two other Japanese currently serving as IOC members, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita and Morinari Watanabe, the president of the International Gymnastics Federation.

IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), vice-chair Danka Bartekova (Slovakia), Tony Estanguet (France) and James Tompkins (Australia) are the outgoing members.

A new IOC chair and vice-chair will be elected on Friday, August 6. The chair will also be involved as a member of the IOC Executive Board.

“It is fantastic to see the high turnout of athletes participating in the Athletes’ Commission election,” Coventry said. “We had an impressive list of candidates, and I want to thank all of the candidates for putting up their hands to represent athletes from around the world. Congratulations and welcome to the four new members. 

“The work and responsibility of the commission is as important as ever to represent and support athletes in all stages of their lives. With these new members and those already on the Commission, I know that the IOC Athletes’ Commission is in very good hands to build on the great work done over the years. Remember, you now represent all athletes from around the world, so do your best to better understand all viewpoints, listen, act and support them to the best of your ability.”

Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.