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Tommy Kono -time Olympic champion weightlifter, dies at 85

Tommy Kono

Tommy Kono, who started to raise weights whilst his Japanese American own circle of relatives became held in a detention camp throughout World War II, then went directly to win Olympic gold medals and 3 titles as Mr. Universe and who became frequently hailed because the best weightlifter of all time, died April 24 at a hospice facility in Hono­lulu. He became 85.

His demise became first suggested at the internet site of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The motive became liver disease.

In addition to his prowess as a weightlifter, Mr. Kono had a body that triggered Sports Illustrated to dub him “the maximum lovely athlete withinside the international.” In 1961, whilst he gained the name of Mr. Universe for the 1/3 time, a younger spectator named Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the opposition in Vienna. Schwarzenegger later stated he have become a bodybuilder in element due to the muse of Mr. Kono.

Few athletes had a extra not going street to worldwide success. In 1942, amid wartime fears that Japanese Americans might be disloyal to the United States, Mr. Kono and his own circle of relatives had been compelled to transport from their domestic in Sacramento. They had been despatched to an internment camp at Tule Lake, Calif., and had been amongst extra than 120,000 Japanese Americans forcibly relocated throughout the war.

Mr. Kono suffered from bronchial allergies and started education with barbells to enhance his stamina and power. After the war, his own circle of relatives back to Sacramento, and he entered his first weightlifting contest at 18. Within years, he completed 2nd in a national opposition.

Drafted into the Army, Mr. Kono became approximately to be despatched to the the front strains of the Korean War whilst his advanced officials identified his expertise as a weightlifter. Instead, he became assigned to a base close to San Francisco, wherein he educated for the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He gained a gold medal withinside the light-weight division (148 kilos).

Mr. Kono might now no longer lose a weightlifting opposition for the relaxation of the 1950s. At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, he gained a gold medal as a light-heavyweight (181 kilos). Four years later, he took a silver medal withinside the middleweight division (a hundred sixty five kilos) on the Rome Olympics. He stays the simplest weightlifter to win Olympic medals in 3 exclusive weight classes.

He educated in large part on his own, training simplest 3 or 4 days a week, 60 to ninety mins at a time. The 5-foot-6 Mr. Kono had a notable cappotential to advantage and shed pounds with the aid of using various his consuming habits. He set international statistics whilst competing in 4 weight divisions, from 148 to 198 kilos. He occasionally competed whilst sporting horn-rimmed glasses.

In 1955, Mr. Kono became some of the first U.S. athletes to go to the Soviet Union, wherein weightlifting became a recreation pursued with the aid of using millions.

“The Russians had been out to show that they’d the most powerful guys withinside the international,” Mr. Kono stated in 2003.

When he beat the pinnacle Soviet lifters, he have become some thing of a cult discern and became occasionally besieged with the aid of using fanatics in Europe. In 1958, whilst he became the reigning Mr. Universe, Mr. Kono additionally gained a international weightlifting name in Sweden.

“Several ladies dashed ahead to kiss him after the prizes had been awarded,” the Associated Press suggested, “however had been disregarded with the aid of using the guards.”

Time mag named Mr. Kono “the best weightlifter of cutting-edge instances and one of the international’s maximum notable athletes.” On 4 activities throughout his career, he completed 2nd withinside the balloting for the Amateur Athletic Union’s James E. Sullivan Award because the country’s pinnacle novice athlete.

In spite of his success, Mr. Kono needed to be cautious approximately keeping his status as an novice. He spent years operating as a laboratory technician and jogging a small health-meals keep in Hono­lulu, had been he settled withinside the mid-1950s. He ought to be given not anything past a trophy for his victories in weightlifting, on the chance of being banned from Olympic opposition.

“It became a recreation for us and we loved doing it,” he informed the Hono­lulu Advertiser in 2003. “Our praise became being capable of make those journeys and constitute the United States. We seemed ahead to sporting america sweatshirts and stuff.”

Mr. Kono had a almost faultless method in every of the 3 required lifts in his recreation. In the easy and jerk, he ought to hoist as plenty as 375 kilos above his head.

“Successful weightlifting isn’t withinside the body,” he stated in 1960. “It’s withinside the thoughts . . . You must beef up your thoughts to close out everything — the person with the camera, the snigger or cough withinside the audience. You can carry as plenty as you agree with you can.”

Tamio Kono became born June 27, 1930, in Sacramento. His parents, who had been born in Japan, had been cannery employees and later ran a printing company.

Mr. Kono studied at Sacramento City College earlier than serving withinside the Army.

After retiring from opposition in 1965, he coached the Mexican Olympic weightlifting crew in 1968, the West German Olympic crew in 1972 and the U.S. Olympic crew in 1976. He additionally coached the U.S. ladies’s crew whilst it started to go into worldwide weightlifting competitions withinside the overdue 1980s.

Mr. Kono remained a main discern in his recreation all through his life, writing books and articles and main seminars on weightlifting method. He believed that immoderate education ought to result in injuries.

He became a referee at worldwide competitions and designed the tight bands weightlifters frequently put on round their knees and elbows to guard their joints.

In 1996, Mr. Kono became one in all 100 “Golden Olympians” invited to participated withinside the Summer Games in Atlanta. He became elected to the International Weightlifting Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In 2005, the International Weightlifting Federation named Mr. Kono “Lifter of the Century.”

Survivors consist of his spouse of fifty three years, the previous Florence Rodrigues of Honolulu; 3 children; and 3 grandchildren.

Mr. Kono stated that intellectual power became as crucial in weightlifting as bodily power — even though he became robust sufficient to bend nails together along with his palms and force a spike right into a board together along with his fist.

He practiced respiratory strategies and followed one of these targeted technique to his recreation that it became frequently likened to a shape of Zen.

“If I listen tough sufficient, it’s surely like being in a room all with the aid of using myself,” he as soon as informed Sports Illustrated. “There’s darkness all round, and all I even have is the load earlier than me. If I’m nerved up for the effort, I sense the load for the primary 3 or 4 inches. After that, I don’t sense the load at all.”

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